The Indonesian government has this week demanded that instant messaging apps available in the country remove all same-sex emoticons from their platforms, or face heavy sanctions.
While homosexuality is not illegal in the country, it remains a controversial issue in the Muslim-dominated country. Now in the latest effort to crackdown on gay rights, Indonesian authorities want to ban emojis, stickers and emoticons which depict same-sex couples, the rainbow flag, and any symbol that symbolises the lesbian, bay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Apps that have been targeted by the demands include the popular Asian messaging app LINE, Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter.
“Such contents are not allowed in Indonesia based on our cultural law and the religious norms and the operators must respect that,” said Ismail Cawidu, a spokesperson for the Indonesian Communication and Information Ministry.
Cawidu added that a particular concern was that children would find the bright coloured stickers appealing. He explained that the ministry had been in touch with all companies that use same-sex emoticon content, and that failure to comply with the demands to remove them would lead to the banning of their app in Indonesia.
LINE Indonesia was the first to remove its gay stickers from its online outlets and also issued the following statement: “LINE regrets the incidents of some stickers which are considered sensitive by many people […] We ask for your understanding because at the moment we are working on this issue to remove the stickers.”
Indonesia has seen a recent flurry of moves to suppress gay culture. At the beginning of the year, the University of Indonesia told an LGBT support group that it was not permitted to hold sessions on campus.
In 2015, Aceh, the only province in the country to adhere to sharia, Islamic law, introduced caning as a punishment for gay sex.
Hartoyo, a well-known gay activist in Indonesia, commented: “This is just the latest in a series of incidents that have happened recently […] The government has let this ignorance go on for far too long and it has put our nation in danger.”