James Massola and Karuni Rompies, Jakarta – A former Indonesian police officer who was sacked for being gay has decided to fight the country's creeping Islamic fundamentalism by challenging his dismissal through the courts.
Known as TT, the man was accused of disobeying the values of religion, law and morality and damaging the reputation of the police force.
TT served in the Central Java police force for 10 years and had kept his sexual orientation secret from his family and his colleagues until, on Valentine's Day in 2017 he was confronted by eight police officers in the car park of the hospital where his now-former partner worked as a surgeon.
"They said they wanted to investigate me over extortion. But there was no extortion at all," he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
TT was taken for questioning by the Paminal [the police internal security unit], as was his partner.
During the interview with TT, the police argued that "I lowered the police force's image... the words 'sexual deviation' were the argument the Paminal officers used during my questioning".
"How come my private space was at issue? I behaved well for 10 years within the police. I never received any warning whatsoever. But then I have a case and was suddenly fired.
"My goal in filing my lawsuit was to find out for sure whether or not a case like this should end by being fired."
TT is thought to be the first police officer in Indonesia fired for being gay. He was dismissed for breaching two articles of the police code of conduct: failing to protect the reputation of the police and disobeying the values of religion, law and morality.
It wasn't until January 2019 that TT finally stopped working for the Central Java police force.
The former officer, who still professes his love for the police force, exhausted all internal appeals against his dismissal and had his quest to get his job back rejected by the Semarang State Administrative Court in Central Java last month.
But rather than giving up, he is now preparing to take his case to the High Court in Surabaya, with documents to be filed with the court later this week.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia but, according to Human Rights Watch's Andreas Harsono, TT's case is yet another example of the rising tide of intolerance in the country, which is itself linked to a rising tide of political Islam in Indonesia.
"You have to see this anti-LGBT movement in line with the rise of political Islam in Indonesia," Harsono says.
"Things are getting worse [for the LGBT community]. According to our analysis, it began in October 2014, when the Aceh parliament passed the new Islamic criminal code... that criminalised homosexual acts."
That law in Aceh carries a penalty of up to 100 lashes and 10 months in prison. "The idea is that homosexuality is basically a disease, that it can affect other people."
Recently in Bali, an annual LGBT pageant held in secret in December and a viral social media campaign in October that targeted the billion-dollar ride-sharing service Go-Jek, sparked by a senior member of Go-Jek's staff commenting in favour of LGBT rights.
At the same time, President Joko Widodo's decision to choose Maruf Amin as his vice-president dismayed campaigners for gay rights – the senior Muslim cleric has in the past supported religious fatwas calling for the criminalisation of homosexuality.
Harsono says a 2008 anti-pornography law is often used to prosecute mostly gay Indonesians. The number of arrests is on the rise – from approximately 400 in 2017 to about 700 in 2018 – while the number of anti-LGBT local laws in different regencies and cities across the country has risen from one in 2014 to 25 today.
A spokesman for the Central Java Police, Senior Commissioner Agus Triatmaja, was tight-lipped when contacted about TT's case. "It's legally binding, the administrative court has rejected the case. We have gone through several processes and procedures."
National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told the Jakarta Post last month that he supported TT's dismissal, arguing that being gay was still "taboo" in Indonesia and that "[homosexuality] is also not recognised by the state. So from these [facts] it is implied that members of the Indonesian National Police must not be LGBT and must not have a deviant sexual orientation".
Harsono is pessimistic about TT's chances of getting job back through the High Court case. "It is has no chance of success. I told him that. But the goal is to continue this case because of course it is unfair to him, and at the same time he wants to do something [for the LGBT community]."