The government of Indonesia doesn't want any gay-themed emoji in the country, and it is asking messaging apps to remove them from their systems.
"Social media must respect the culture and local wisdom of the country where they have large numbers of users," Information and Communication Ministry spokesman Ismail Cawidu told the Associated Press this week.
This comes after Japan-based app LINE'S announcement this week that it would be removing LGBT-themed stickers from its Indonesian store after receiving complaints from Indonesians on social media, the AP reported. LINE Indonesia issued a statement apologizing for stickers considered sensitive by "many" and that the company was in the process of removing certain stickers.
Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, doesn't ban homosexuality by law, although laws "generally do not recognize or support the rights of LGBT people," according to a 2013 United Nations report. One of the country's most conservative provinces began last year to enforce a strict law that punishes gay sex with caning.
Cawidu said the government would be asking WhatsApp, a competitor of LINE, to follow suit and remove LGBT-theme emoji from its system.
“Such contents are not allowed in Indonesia based on our cultural law and the religious norms, and the operators must respect that,” Cawidu told AFP. He added that such emoji appealing to children was especially concerning to officials.
“Those things might be considered normal in some Western countries, while in Indonesia it's practically impossible,” he told AFP.
LINE offers stickers in a store, but WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has emoji built into the system's keyboard — meaning that removing them could be more difficult. Then there's the iPhone, which last year added emojis of same-sex couples to its keyboard, such as 👬 and 👭.
Human Rights Watch sent a letter Friday to Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo, calling attention to recent reports of discrimination against LGBT Indonesians.
"We write to express our grave concerns regarding the recent spate of hateful rhetoric by public officials against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia, and urge you to send an unambiguous message that your administration will defend the fundamental rights of all Indonesians," the non-governmental organization wrote.