May 20, 2019 / 10:23 AM / a month ago

Indonesian ex-police brigadier says he was fired for being gay

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A former Indonesian police brigadier has filed a complaint to the human rights commission claiming he was fired for being gay, his lawyers said on Monday, in what could be a test case on discrimination in the Southeast Asian country.

The resident of Semarang city in Central Java, who declined to be identified, also separately sued the provincial police in March alleging a violation of the law on discrimination.

His legal challenges come amid rising government and public hostility toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer community (LGBTQ) community in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia, except in the ultra-conservative Islamic province of Aceh, but some religious groups have called for it to be banned. Many members of the LGBTQ community are not open about their sexual orientation.

The former brigadier says he was dishonorably discharged on discriminatory grounds after colleagues forcefully outed him and his partner on Valentine’s Day in 2017.

The Central Java provincial police has said it conducted an internal investigation which found the officer had violated ethics and tarnished the reputation of the institution by engaging in “deviant sexual behavior”.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo also said the officer had “abused” a victim, according to media, but his lawyers say he and his partner were in a consensual relationship.

“We believe the provincial police fired him because of his sexual orientation... and it is a violation of his rights as guaranteed by the constitution to live and work free of discrimination,” said Maaruf Bajamal, a Legal Aid Foundation lawyer representing the former police officer.

Rights activists are optimistic the case could improve protection for members of minority groups, some of whom have faced persecution and humiliation at the hands of vigilantes in recent years and in some cases legal persecution.

“Activists are looking forward to ripple effects this case could have for the LGBT movement and in turn the community in the future,” said Dede Oetomo, a prominent gay activist who works with rights group GAYa NUSANTARA.

Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie

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