indonesian government bans gay emojis

The majority-Muslim nation sees tiny illustrations of same-sex couples as a threat.

by i-D Staff and Laura Vogel
13 February 2016, 5:25pm

A sampling of the illustrated boyfriend emojis now under fire. Courtesy LINE.

A collection of same-sex emoji illustrations have just been been banned in Indonesia. The cutesy illustrations were available on apps including LINE, Whatsapp, Facebook, and Twitter. They depicted tiny little men holding hands with men and women with women, and were recently outlawed in the Southeast Asian nation, Dazed and Confused reported. 

However, leaders of the majority-Muslim nation wasn't having any of it, forbidding gay emoji from any messaging apps operating in the country. "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, spokesman for Indonesia's Communication and Information Ministry. Cawidu was, of course, thinking about the children who might be attracted to the colorful, adorable images and would likely turn gay instantly. He added, "Those things might be considered normal in some Western countries, while in Indonesia it's practically impossible."

LINE Indonesia caved quickly, removing all the same-sex cartoons from their online shops, and released an apologetic statement, which read in part, "LINE regrets the incidents of some stickers which are considered sensitive by many people." 

Though homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia — in fact, many of the island nation's TV personalities are gay and transgender — this move is part of a wider crackdown on LGBT rights in the country. The single-named Hartoyo is a prominent Indonesian gay-rights activist, and he believes the emoji ban is troublesome, saying, "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."

Indeed, last year the province of Aceh — the only one in Indonesia that follows the strict Sharia law — implemented Islamic punishments for homosexuality, which is not illegal under the country's secular laws. Citizens caught engaging in gay sex may be subject to "caning" (i.e., being publicly whipped up to 100 times). 

Clearly, the lack of same-sex emojis are the least of the worries for LGBT people of Indonesia.


Text Laura Vogel
Image courtesy LINE

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