Gay hook-up apps have been pulled from the Google Play Store in Indonesia amid a government crackdown on the LGBT community.
Police have clamped down on the gay community in Indonesiaover the past yearr, with more than a hundred arrested in raids on gay venues and establishments in Jakarta in October.
It is technically legal to be gay in Indonesia apart from in the ultra-conservative Aceh province, which implements harsh punishments under Islamic law.
Earlier this week 12 transgender women in Aceh were arrested, shaved and forced to dress in men’s clothing, as part of a “community sickness operation”.
Meanwhile lawmakers are trying to pass legislation which would outlaw ‘LGBT behaviours’ on television – potentially censoring shows that include LGBT characters as well as news reports on the LGBT community.
In another warning sign today, the region’s largest gay dating app was abruptly pulled from the Google Play store after demands from the government.
China-based app Blued, which is the largest hook-up app for the LGBT community across Asia and rivals Grindr globally, was pulled from the store as the government demanded Google censor a total of 73 LGBT-related applications.
The app has not yet been removed from the iPhone App Store in the country.
The government claimed that the app were removed due to “negative content” and “pornographic content”.
Communications ministry spokesperson Noor Iza told AFP: “There was some negative content related to pornography inside the application.
“Probably one or some members of the application put the pornographic content inside.”
He added: “I don’t know [whether the ministry has sent a similar request to Apple]. They should since there are two operating systems [predominantly used].”
The removal of the applications will be seen as a brazen attempt to clamp down further on the LGBT community.
Amnesty International last year urged Indonesia to stop the caning and arrests of LGBT people in Aceh.
After raids on a gay sauna, Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Campaigns, said: “These arrests are further evidence of the increasingly hostile environment faced by the LGBTI community in Indonesia.
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“This situation has been fuelled over the past year by a series of reckless, inflammatory and inaccurate statements made by public officials, apparently under the guise of ‘defending public morality’.
“With the exception of Aceh province, there is no law against same-sex relationships in Indonesia. Ambiguously worded laws on pornography are being exploited to deliberately target LGBTI people, denying them the basic right to privacy and the right to enter into consensual relationships.
“As well as dropping the absurd charges against the individuals involved in this incident, the Indonesian government must revise its pornography laws so that they cannot be misused in this way.
“Rather than peddling blatantly homophobic rhetoric, the authorities should focus their efforts on creating a safer, inclusive environment for the LGBTI community in the long term.”
Several public floggings took place in 2017, with two men given 83 lashes each for ‘homosexual conduct’.
A report later alleged that there had been attempts to ‘cover up’ the anti-LGBT oppression in the region by moving the floggings away from the public eye.
Local reports suggest that the floggings continue, but that authorities in the Aceh Province have moved them away from being public.
According to Coconuts Jakarta, after a wave of negative media coverage the vice governor of Aceh changed the “technical implementation” of the law “so that the corporal punishment is carried out privately, inside a prison with only a small audience, instead of in public for all to see.
The official believed the punishment “had to be weighed against considerations about bringing foreign investment to Aceh, which is important to the region’s development”, according to the outlet.