Indonesian Air Force tweet sparks LGBT debate

Protesters marching with banners demonstrating against the LGBT community in Banda Aceh on Dec 27, 2017.
Protesters marching with banners demonstrating against the LGBT community in Banda Aceh on Dec 27, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - An exchange of tweets between the Indonesian Air Force's Twitter administrator and its followers has opened a debate on whether members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community were allowed to serve in the country's armed forces.

It all started when the air force's official account, @_TNIAU, tweeted that every soldier was forbidden from committing immoral acts, and they would be discharged if they did. A follower using the Twitter handle RatnaPurba (@ratpruba) then posted a reply asking: "What about the LGBT?"

The Twitter administrator responded by saying that LGBT people could not join the air force, and that such sexual preferences were a mental disorder.

"There is (a) mental health test in the selection process. LGBT is included as a mental disorder. If there are still many candidate soldiers who are mentally healthy, then why should unhealthy ones be accepted?" the administrator tweeted in Indonesian on Tuesday (Jan 9).

The response sparked a debate on Twitter, with some agreeing but many more disagreeing with the statement. Others questioned the professionalism of the administrator for tweeting in an informal manner and speech.

"It's up to you if you are against (the LGBT community), but don't eliminate their right to be equal among others," @jea_hana replied.

"This is a sensitive issue, but the TNI must be firm," the official account tweeted back, referring to the Indonesian military. "TNI soldiers must be physically and mentally healthy… Same-sex intercourse is a sin, right? I am really sorry, but even animals never miss their target (in mating)," it tweeted.

Homosexuality, although not illegal in Indonesia, remains a sensitive public issue amid growing conservatism and comments from public figures condemning the community.