JAKARTA (AFP) – Crowds cheered on Friday (Nov 11) night as a group of Indonesian transgender women showed off glittering gowns in a beauty pageant held almost entirely in secret to avoid unwanted attention from hardliners in the Muslim-majority nation.
Twenty-eight-year-old Pie Nabh Tappii won the title of Miss Transgender Indonesia, facing off competition from 18 other contestants.
“I am happy, but I want to cry as well… I didn’t expect this,” Tappii told AFP after being crowned.
In addition to the crown, Tappii’s prizes included 10 million rupiah (S$1,000) and a 2m-high trophy.
The pageant in Jakarta was kept mostly under wraps, with just a handful of media invited as organisers warned cheering supporters not to share images of the event on social media as it unfolded, fearing the wrath of religious radicals.
Hardliners in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country have grown increasingly bold in recent years.
They have halted a festival focusing on women’s issues and have targeted the Christian minority, seeking to close down churches and stop their community work.
The Indonesian constitution officially recognises six different religions and most of its 255 million inhabitants practise a moderate form of Islam.
But critics say the influence of fringe hardline groups, and the authorities’ unwillingness to tackle them for fear of being labelled anti-Islamic, has fuelled a dangerous increase in intolerance, including against the transgender community.
The parade comes just a week after tens of thousands of Muslims protested in Jakarta against the city’s Christian governor, angered by allegations he insulted Islam.