Civil groups have criticised the Jakarta Police over the criminalisation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community following a recent raid on a private party in Kuningan, South Jakarta.
On August 29, police officers broke into an apartment where 56 males were holding a private gathering. The police later named nine people, who were the party organisers, as suspects, while the 47 attendees became witnesses in the case.
Investigators charged the nine suspects under Article 296 of the Criminal Code, which is generally used to charge pimps.
They also charged the suspects under Article 33 of the 2008 Pornography Law that restricts people from funding or facilitating pornographic services, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.
The Civil Society Coalition for the Protection of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups criticised the force’s decision to name the party organisers suspects, saying the charge was unsuitable as the organisers did not hold the party for profit.
The coalition – consisting of several civil groups including the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), LGBT rights group Arus Pelangi and the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) – also argued that partying in a private space could not be considered a violation of the law.
It went on to say that the police had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Indonesia through Law No 12/2005, which restricts state authorities from arbitrarily entering citizens’ residences.
“The state shouldn’t use criminal law to target certain groups. The police shouldn’t justify ways to obtain evidence that violate the suspects’ rights,” the coalition wrote in a statement on Saturday.
The coalition also argued that the police had ignored the suspects’ rights to a fair trial during the raid and investigation as the force did not notify their relatives about the arrest. The police only announced the raid five days later during a press briefing.
Civil rights groups also lambasted the police for not providing legal assistance to the suspects and witnesses during the investigation, although it is guaranteed by Article 54 of the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP).
“We urge the Jakarta Police to prioritise the fair trial principles and stop using all means that violate the citizens’ privacy. The National Commission on Human Rights [Komnas HAM] should ensure that the case won’t become a precedent for future persecutions against LGBT groups.”
Being LGBT is not illegal in Indonesia, but members of the community have persistently faced discrimination from authorities, society as well as radical Islamic groups.
US-based Pew Research Institute found last year that only nine per cent of Indonesians agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Although the figure had increased from three per cent in 2013, it was still far below other countries, including the neighbouring Philippines, where 73 per cent of respondents responded that they were tolerant of homosexuality.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK