A former Indonesian police officer is suing the force following his wrongful dismissal due to his sexuality, with the case a ‘first of its kind’ for the country.

The plaintiff, 31-year-old Tri Teguh Pujianto had worked for the Central Jawa Police for a decade, but in 2018 was fired after it was deemed he had violated “ethical codes of the national police… by the deviant act of having same-sex intercourse.” The accusations were laid after Pujianto and his partner were caught by police in another town, when they were saying goodbyes at the partner’s workplace on Valentine’s Day.

Last year, Pujianto was denied his day in court, when the case was thrown out after the judge at the time cited the need for a police internal appeals process to be completed before any further legal action could be taken. When the appeal process concluded, Pujianto filed a fresh case in the courts.

“This is my fight, my last-ditch effort. Why won’t they judge my service for all those years? Why exaggerate my mistakes, which I don’t think were mistakes anyway?” Pujianto said in an interview. “I want to fight for basic human rights, so there will no longer be arbitrary actions taken against minorities.”

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 The legal team looking after Pujianto’s case are centring their defence on what they describe as the “elastic” nature of the Police Code of Conduct, given there is actually no mention of sexuality in police regulations.

Aside from the Aceh Province in the northwest tip of Sumatra Island, homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia. However, some are concerned by the increasing sway of conservative Islam, with a number of prominent leaders having recently tried unsuccessfully to garner support for the passing of a bill that would require LGBTQI people to seek treatment at rehabilitation centres.

All eyes will be on the result of this case, with many hoping that it marks a turning point for the rights of LGBTQI Indonesian communities. Dede Oetomo, of the advocacy group GAYa NUSANTARA explained, “he’s broken the mould because he’s brave. My hope is that more activists will emerge from cases like his.”

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