JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Human Rights Watch on Friday urged Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to protect gay and lesbian rights, a day after his government told instant messaging apps to remove stickers featuring same-sex couples in the latest high-profile attempt to discourage visible homosexuality in the socially conservative country.
In a letter to the president, the New York-based group said the government should publicly condemn officials who make “grossly discriminatory remarks” against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. People of such sexualities are commonly known by the abbreviation LGBT.
“President Jokowi should urgently condemn anti-LGBT remarks by officials before such rhetoric opens the door to more abuses,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The president has long championed pluralism and diversity. This is an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment.”
The government move against instant messaging apps comes after a social media backlash against the popular smartphone messaging app Line for having stickers, which are an elaborate type of emoticon, with gay themes in its online store.
But the coordinating minister for politics, law and security Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters Friday that society should not respond to differences among people with discrimination, social exclusion or violence.
LGBT people “are citizens who have the right to be protected in this dignified nation,” Pandjaitan said. “Don’t be quick to judge people, we must reflect on ourselves first because we cannot guarantee it will not happen to your children and grandchildren in the future.”