May 25, 2010 
Amir Tejo, Dessy Sagita & Anita Rachman

Transvestites are banned from cutting female clients' hair according to a new 
fatwa unless they are related by blood or marriage. (AFP Photo)

Hairdressing Fatwa a Door to Prostitution: Transvestites

Transvestites on Monday lambasted a religious ruling banning them from cutting 
or styling Muslim women's hair unless they were spouses or blood relatives. 

"We have no access to jobs as mainstream office workers. The only thing we can 
do is work at beauty salons," said Irma Subechi, head of the Surabaya 
Transvestites Association (Perwakos). "If even that is declared haram 
[forbidden in Islam], what else can we do?" 

Irma said that the recent fatwa would further marginalize transvestites and 
"slowly kill" their identity as rightful members of society. 

Issued by leaders of 125 pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) from across Java 
during a meeting at Al Falah pesantren in Kediri, East Java, the fatwa cited 
that since transvestites were male, it was therefore forbidden for them to see 
- much less touch - a woman who was not their spouse or blood relative. 

They were, however, allowed to cut and style men's hair, since they themselves 
were men, the fatwa said. 

Irma said that a recent study in Java found that 25 percent of some 670 
transvestites surveyed worked at beauty salons. 

Perwakos itself actually recommends transvestites to build their hairdressing 
skills and to find work in beauty salons as a way to prevent its members from 
resorting to work as prostitutes. 

Abdul Manan, one of the instigators of the fatwa, told the Jakarta Globe on 
Monday that hair was "part of a woman's aurat [parts of the body that should 
not be shown under Islamic law] that must be covered, so it cannot be seen, 
touched or cut by a man who is not their family." 

Abdul said that he would bring the fatwa to the attention of Nahdlatul Ulama, 
the country's largest Muslim organization. He added that if the fatwa was 
endorsed by NU's national board, then all Muslim women in Java would be banned 
from getting their hair cut or styled by transvestites. 

Maria Ulfah Ansor, who heads the women's wing of NU, questioned the ban on 

"They are working as hairdressers and stylists and makeup artists. This is not 
a problem," she said. "It is true that according to our [Islamic] teachings, we 
cannot be touched by them because it could lead to temptation, but this is not 
in this case. This is just work, so it is fine." 

Nurkholis, a commissioner at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas 
HAM), pointed out that such a fatwa was not legally binding. 

But Jakarta-based makeup artist and hair stylist Marcell Runtu, said that it 
could still encourage more transvestites into prostitution or crime, due to 
loss of business. 

"There are so many men today working as hairstylists or makeup artists, many of 
them straight," he said. "Do you think they should lose their female clients 

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