A wave of intolance is sweeping Indonesia with officials, clerics and even government ministers regularly launching verbal assaults on the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, according to a recent report by Adam Harvey, writing for Australia’s ABC News.

Hardline Muslim cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab, above, of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) regularly attacks Indonesia’s waria, the word used for transgender people.

ABC News quoted the cleric as saying during one sermon: “If you see your son or grandson play with dolls, burn the dolls and give them fake machetes to play with, so they can grow up to be men and not trannies”.

ABC News attended another gathering of hardliners, attended by about 3,000 women, where speaker Ismah Cholil said transsexual people should be stoned to death or flogged to remove their sins.

On being transgender in Indonesia, Kiki, or Qie Nabh Tappiii, who became Miss Waria Indonesia, said: “Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s easy. The hard part is that we have to educate society that we are also human beings. We need to be appreciated just like people in general.”

Indonesia’s waria do not have many opportunities for work, said Wayan Lucky Diah Pithaloka, who runs several hair salons in Jakarta where she employs seven waria in her salons.

Older waria in Indonesia have it particularly tough, waria advocate Mami Yuli said.

Indonesia has no social security system, so the elderly rely on their families. Most waria cannot do that, she said.

“They left home when they were young, they ran away from home because their parents refused to accept them being transgender,” she added.

“Their families were embarrassed to have transgender children. So for tens of years, they have been running away and now they’re old, they have no parents to return to, and they’re facing big problems.”
Older waria must rely on the support of charities.

In outer Jakarta, a group of waria attend a special weekly church service – where they are fed and receive a medical check-up.

But there is a price to pay.

The church asks the waria not to wear women’s clothing, and, at the sermon attended by ABC News, the audience were asked to memorise the verse from Deuteronomy: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, and a man must not wear women’s clothes, because anyone who does this is an abomination to God.”