By Konradus Epa
Indonesia has persuaded Google to pull 73 applications and shut down 169 websites related to the country’s LBGT community.
The crackdown comes on the heels of proposals in parliament in January to outlaw gay and premarital sex. It also follows a year in which more than 300 men were arrested in raids on gay venues across the country.
The apps removed from Google’s Play Store included the gay dating app Blued, which boasts 27 million users worldwide.
“We blocked the sites and applications because the contents disturb our society, and people have complained about them,” communications ministry spokesman, Noor Iza, told ucanews.com.
He said that the ministry was also working with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms in Indonesia to crack down on negative content, including LBGT-related items.
Mami Yuli, a Catholic transgender woman, likened the crackdown to an all out war against the LGBT community.
“The government should not arbitrarily block sites because we have the law. If the LGBT people violate the law they should be sanctioned according to the law,” she told ucanews.com.
Hartoyo, chairman of Suara Kita (Our Voice), an LGBT advocacy group, said shutting down the applications shows that the government does not know how to educate its citizens any more.
“It shows more about panic on the side of the government, particularly the Ministry of Communication and Information,” said Hartoyo who like many Indonesian uses only one name.
“Blocking sites is ineffective. It’s just like when the government blocked porn sites. It was unsuccessful,” he said.
He suggested the government focus more on sex education, just like many developed countries, to prevent sexual violence.
Azas Tigor Nainggolan, coordinator of the human rights desk of the Indonesian bishops’ Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People, said the crackdown was the result of the government refusing to recognize an LGBT community exists.
He said the moral “goal of the government was good but it should not violate the privacy and rights of people or discriminate against them.”
The moves against Indonesia’s LGBT community, including the proposals to outlaw gay and premarital sex, have drawn swift rebuke from rights groups, including ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
In a Feb. 7 statement, APHR board member Teddy Baguilat from the Philippines, said the draft amendments, if approved, severely violate the rights to privacy.
“It is extremely worrying that private affairs between two consenting, law-abiding adults could very soon be opened to government interference and scrutiny,” Baquilat said.
“If passed, these changes to the criminal code will reinforce existing prejudices and discrimination faced by an already vulnerable community in Indonesia, and legitimize ongoing bullying, homophobic violence, and police abuse,” Baguilat said.