Andin’s story – Indonesia
Forced exorcism is a common occurrence for transgender women in Indonesia. Throughout the country it is widely believed that being gay or transgender results from being possessed by evil spirits.
Themes: Transgender, harassment, forced exorcism
For two decades, Andin’s family has subjected her to harassment and abuse in an attempt to ‘save’ her from being transgender. She has been held in a locked room for days and bombarded with Koranic verses, as well as being drenched in icy water by an imam promising to rid her of the ‘gender disease’. But the exorcism impacted her most profoundly.
Andin was taken against her will to a religious guru close to her hometown. Holding up a burial shroud used to cover the dead, he prayed over her and gave her the choice of giving up life as a woman or going to hell. “It’s traumatising – the horror of that memory stays in my head,” she says.
Forced exorcism is a common occurrence for gay and transgender people in Indonesia. Homosexuality is legal everywhere in Indonesia except in Aceh province which adheres to strict Islamic laws. But throughout the country it is widely believed that being gay or transgender results from being possessed by evil spirits and that religious ceremony and prayer are needed to exorcise the spirits.
In 2020, conservative Islamic lawmakers tabled a so-called “Family Resilience” bill. Among other measures the law would have forced gay and transgender people to undergo ‘rehabilitation’ to rid people of sexual deviancy. Given that exorcisms are widely used to ‘treat’ mental illness, Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia’s executive director considered exorcism to be “the most likely option to be taken by officials in Indonesia when doing ‘rehabilitation’”, he adds.
The ‘Family Resilience’ bill was rejected by parliament. None the less, Andin doubts that things will get better for her. Her family keeps trying to cure her – most recently by sacrificing a goat. “Twenty years later, they still want me to be different”, she says.
Andin’s name has been changed.