Indonesia Wants to Ban LGBT Emojis Because of ‘Religious Values’

Indonesian officials have threatened social media messaging platforms to remove LGBT-inclusive icons or “emojis.” Apps refusing to do so could face being blocked in the country.

Reports say that a spokesperson for the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics has asked Facebook and WhatsApp to remove emojis relating to LGBT themes because they could cause civil unrest.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, doesn’t technically ban homosexuality, though there are a number of religious edicts against same-gender relationships. All the same, stigma surrounding LGBT identity remains high. While the Indonesian government has not yet created legislation similar to Russia’s stifling “gay propaganda” law, it has moved to curtail freedom of expression to ensure that LGBTs do not gain a visible foothold in Indonesian culture.

To that end, the government has already requested that Japanese-Korean messaging platform Line remove LGBT-related content. Line complied with that request earlier this month. The government has indicated that companies who refuse this request could be referred to the ministry’s so-called Negative Content Management Panel. As Time points out, the Panel is capable of recommending websites and other digital platforms to be blocked by the country’s enforcement agencies.

Obviously, that’s no small action, though it remains uncertain whether the government would go so far as to use these heavy-handed tactics over fairly innocuous “emoji” messaging symbols. Clearly though, they are willing to make the threat.

According to the BBC, information ministry spokesperson Ismail Cawidu told the Republika newspaper: ”No social media may show items that smack of LGBT. Because we have our own rules, like religious values and norms, which they must respect.”

Reports suggest that such bans could be rolled out to apps like Tinder and similarly themed social and dating apps.

The government requests come against a backdrop of “hateful rhetoric” from politicians regarding LGBT rights. For example, the northernmost province of Aceh has adopted a staunch form of Sharia law which would make same-gender relationships punishable by up to 100 lashes. This represents a disturbing trend when Indonesia’s state secularism is generally perceived to safeguard against the worst of extreme religious edicts. The eroding status of women’s rights is equally concerning.

In addition, January saw Indonesia’s technology and higher education minister, Muhammad Nasir, advocate that the LGBT community be banned from university campuses because of moral standards.

Human Rights Watch has documented similar remarks by other politicians, and in a letter written to Indonesia’s President Widodo notes:

“Human Rights Watch researchers in January 2016 documented arbitrary arrests, harassment, threats, and violence against LGBT people in Indonesia’s Aceh province. However, those disturbing patterns of abuse have in recent weeks emerged in other parts of Indonesia and affect a growing proportion of the country’s LGBT population.

[...]

Such discriminatory comments by public officials – including some appointed by your administration – follow crackdowns on free expression for LGBT student groups at education institutions across Indonesia in recent months. In November 2015, Brawijaya University authorities cancelled an LGBT-themed event claiming they received threats of an attack from unnamed sources. That same month, the rector of the University of Lampung threatened to expel any students or lecturers involved in LGBT organizing or academic work.

Derogatory rhetoric from politicians often sets the tone for discrimination and even violence in the public sphere. Thus, Human Rights Watch is urging the President to make public statements emphasizing that the rights of everyone, including LGBT people, must be respected.

Hopefully, the Indonesian government will get the message that LGBT discrimination cannot be tolerated.

The move to censor messaging apps comprises part of a much wider attack on basic civil liberties. A ban on LGBT emojis will bring with it serious consequences for freedom of speech and the already limited rights of LGBT Indonesians.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

55 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Karen C.
Karen C2 years ago

Instead of just valuing religious beliefs, value everyone

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Amanda M.
Amanda M2 years ago

George Orwell, eat your heart out! Big Brother is alive and well, and taking the form of religious fundamentalists!

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Jan L.
Past Member 2 years ago

Sad and unnecessary.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

noted

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Roberto M.
Past Member 2 years ago

THANKS FOR SHARING

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Roberto M.
Past Member 2 years ago

THANKS

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Roberto M.
Past Member 2 years ago

THANKS

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Roberto M.
Past Member 2 years ago

THANKS

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Jaimee-Leigh C.
Jaimee-Leigh C2 years ago

Oh for goodness sake!

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