Indonesian Police Criticized For Putting a Trans Woman in a Men’s Cell

Rights activists have accused the police of cruelty for detaining Millen Cyrus, an Instagram influencer, in a men’s facility.
November 27, 2020, 12:02pm
trans, Indonesia, millen cyrus
For illustrative purposes only. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka / AFP

Indonesian police have been criticized for placing a trans woman in a male jail cell following her arrest over the weekend.

The trans woman, an Instagram influencer known as Millen Cyrus, was arrested on Sunday in North Jakarta for alleged drug possession. The police placed her in a male jail cell, saying they were following the sex written on her identity card.

Human rights activists have denounced the move as insensitive and dangerous.

Following an uproar on Twitter, the Indonesian police transferred the 21-year-old model to a special cell on Wednesday. But that wasn’t because the police realized their mistake; they removed her from the men’s facility in order to “stifle anger,” police spokesman Yusri Yunus told Indonesian newspaper Kompas.

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Local media have reported that Rezha Rahandhi, the head of the narcotics unit that arrested Millen Cyrus, claimed she had no issue with being jailed in the men’s cell. Millen Cyrus could not be reached for comment.

Millen Cyrus and her friend, a man identified by the initials JR, were said to be carrying 0.3 grams of crystal methamphetamine during a police raid in a hotel. Millen Cyrus’s urine tested positive for drugs, while JR’s test showed a negative result, the police said.

In a written statement to VICE World News, the Institute of Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), an Indonesian advocacy group for criminal law and justice reform, condemned the authorities for failing to provide for Millen Cyrus’s “special needs,” as well as ignoring the risks she might face while in a men’s cell.

“Forcing [Millen Cyrus] into a men’s facility put her in a dangerous situation. [Millen Cyrus] is at high risk of facing stigma, harassment and violence from other inmates,” said ICJR researcher Maidina Rahmawati. “This should be understood by authorities whose actions prioritize law and human rights.”

Erasmus Napitupulu, the ICJR’s executive director, welcomed the police’s decision to transfer Millen Cyrus to a special cell. But he said the case highlighted the deficiencies in the country’s legal system.

“Indonesian criminal code has not touched on protection for vulnerable groups like trans women or those who express themselves as a woman,” Napitupulu told VICE World News.

This wasn’t the first time the country’s authorities failed to treat trans women prisoners as women. 

When Lucinta Luna, another trans woman celebrity, was arrested for drug abuse, the police initially couldn’t decide where she should be jailed. Luna, who had changed the sex on her identity card to female, was placed in a special cell before being transferred to a women’s cell.