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Transgender people have been fleeing the sharia-ruled Indonesian province of Aceh amid fears of further violence, an exodus that comes in the same week the national parliament proposed criminalising gay and all extramarital sex. In the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, scores of transgender people have fled following the arrest and public shaming of 12 trans women in neighbouring North Aceh.

The 12 women, known as waria, were arrested on Saturday night when police, accompanied by locals, raided beauty salons and forced them to strip off their shirts and have their hair cut in public. Sources close to those detained say they were also stripped naked and beaten by police, and upon release are suffering psychological trauma. Hartoyo, a gay man who was tortured by Aceh police in and is now a Jakarta-based activist, said he received regular death threats. The majority of waria he knows in Banda Aceh have closed their salons in recent days in fear of being attacked, and have either fled or are lying low.

Based on its special autonomy provisions, Aceh is the only Indonesian province that can adopt sharia bylaws, including laws that make gay sex punishable by lashes. But across Indonesia, LGBT people have been targeted in police raids at private residences, hotels and clubs, with arrests in , according to Human Rights Watch. In the lead-up to an election year, regional elections and the presidential vote, speaking out in defence of LGBT rights carries ificant political risk.

The national parliament this week drafted revisions to the criminal code that would outlaw not only same-sex relations but all extramarital sex. Committee members said the article on gay sex had widespread support. Activists have expressed concern over the move, while an online petition against the revision has attracted more than 35, atures. This article is more than 3 years old. Kate Lamb in Jakarta. Fri 2 Feb . Topics Indonesia Transgender Asia Pacific news.

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Why do so many teenage girls want to change gender?