Indonesia is in the news today after it was reported that the government ordered all instant messaging providers - for example Line, Twitter and WhatsApp - to remove gay emoticons (such as same-sex couples holding hands or making kiss gestures at each other). Through this removal the government tries to safeguard the local culture and (religious-inspired) ethics hence protecting the nation's children from an example of bad western behavior.
Earlier this week Line - an application for instant communications - removed such gay emoticons or stickers available for downloading at its Indonesia store on the request of Indonesia's Ministry of Information and Communication. Line is estimated to have more than 30 million Indonesian users. Other instant messaging providers are now requested to do the same. Ismail Cawidu, Spokesman at the Communication Ministry, said WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) is next on the agenda in an effort to force instant messaging providers to respect local culture.
After Line removed the gay emoticons/stickers on 9 February 2016, New York-based Human Rights Watch stated in a letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo (sent on 11 February 2016) that the government of Indonesia should increase efforts to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (abbreviated LGBT) people and publicly condemn officials’ discriminatory remarks about such lifestyles. It mentioned a number of recent examples that give rise to concern. In October 2015, Aceh's Sharia (Islamic law) police arrested two young women on grounds of “hugging in public” (in this province same-sex relationships are punishable with 100 lashes). Then, in November 2015, the Brawijaya University canceled a LGBT event after receiving threats from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a militant Islamist organization.
Indonesia - with its large and young population - is estimated to have 82 million social network users in 2016, up 13.5 percent from last year's figure (eMarketer estimate) with Facebook being the most popular one.
Although homosexuality is present throughout Indonesian society (just like it is in western societies) it is still considered a taboo in the Muslim-majority country and therefore mostly hidden to the public eye.
Do you agree with the government's move to ban gay emoticons?
Voting possible: -
- No, I don't (57.6%)
- Yes, I do (42.4%)
Total amount of votes: 99