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Indonesian Government Forces Instagram to Close Pro-LGBT Account

Nearly 88 per cent of Indonesia's over 260 million people are Muslims and the majority of them are said to be moderates

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pride flag
The rainbow pride flag of the LGBT community. Wikimedia Commons

Popular social network Instagram on Wednesday suspended an account which published comics discussing the problems and acceptance issues faced by the Muslim LGBT community in Indonesia.

The move came after the government asked the social network to remove the gay-friendly account that allegedly published cartoons containing pornographic material and riling many in the country – home to the world’s largest Muslim population.

The Ministry of Information and Communication alleged in a statement that the account, run by a user known only as @Alpantuni, violated the Electronic Information and Transactions Law by distributing content that “breached decency”, according to Efe news.

The Ministry thanked users for their complaints which “accelerated the process” against the handle.

LGBT, Thailand
Thai LGBT community participates in Gay Freedom Day Parade in Bangkok, Thailand. VOA

The comic strips, which showed Muslim gay characters and criticized homophobia and religious fundamentalism in the country, were targeted by a large number of Instagram users, who tagged the Ministry in their comments.

Instagram took the decision after Communication Minister Rudiantara on Monday threatened to shut down the platform in the country unless the company took steps to fulfil the Ministry’s demand.

Homosexuality is legal across Indonesia – except for in Sharia law-ruled Aceh province – and though the LGBT community has yet to meet acceptance, it had been tolerated in the past.

But the Electronic Information and Transactions (EIT) law and the law against pornography have often been used in Indonesia to criminalize homosexuality and the LGBT community, according to non-profit Human Rights Watch.

Edith Windsor
Edie dearly loved the LGBTQ community which loved her right back and held her in reverence for her fight for freedom, equality, and justice. Wikemedia

In February 2018, the government blocked more than 200 mobile applications and websites with content related to homosexuality.

Months later in October, the police arrested two people on the Java Island for running a Facebook page for gays, accusing them of publishing pornography and pressing charges under the EIT law.

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To “safeguard” moral norms on the Internet, the Ministry of Communication has also threatened to shut down other social networks and messaging apps in recent years apart from blocking hundreds of webpages and apps carrying content that promotes homosexuality.

Nearly 88 per cent of Indonesia’s over 260 million people are Muslims and the majority of them are said to be moderates. (IANS)

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Last Decade Had seen ‘Backlash’ Against Human Rights: UN Official

UN Official Decries Human Rights ‘Backlash’ in Last Decade

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Human rights
Andrew Gilmour, U.N.assistant secretary-general for human rights, visits a Rohingya camp in Bangladesh. (VOA)

The past decade has seen a backlash against human rights on every front, especially the rights of women and LGBT communities, according to a top U.N. human rights official.

Andrew Gilmour, the outgoing assistant secretary-general for human rights, said the regression of the past 10 years hasn’t equaled the advances that began in the late 1970s — but it is serious, widespread and regrettable.

He pointed to “populist authoritarian nationalists” in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, who he said are taking aim at the most vulnerable groups of society, including Rohingya Muslims, Roma and Mexican migrants, as well as gays and women. He cited leaders who justify torture, the arrests and killing of journalists, the brutal repressions of demonstrations and “a whole closing of civil society space.”

China Human Rights
A Chinese police officer takes his position by the road near what is officially called a vocational education centre in Yining in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. VOA

“I never thought that we would start hearing the terms `concentration camps’ again,” Gilmour told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. “And yet, in two countries of the world there’s a real question.”

He didn’t name them but appeared to be referring to China’s internment camps in western Xinjiang province, where an estimated 1 million members of the country’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority are being held; and detention centers on the United States’ southern border, where mostly Central American migrants are being held while waiting to apply for asylum. Both countries strongly deny that concentration camp-like conditions exist.

Gilmour is leaving the United Nations on December 31 after a 30-year career that has included posts in hot spots such as Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories and West Africa. Before taking up his current post in 2016, he served for four years as director of political, peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights affairs in former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office.

Despite his dim view of the past decade, Gilmour — a Briton who previously worked in politics and journalism — said he didn’t want to appear “relentlessly negative.”

Not a straight line

UN human rights
Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights gestures after a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva. VOA

“The progress of human rights is certainly not a linear progression, and we have seen that,” he said. “There was definite progression from the late ’70s until the early years of this century. And we’ve now seen very much the countertendency of the last few years.”

Gilmour said human rights were worse during the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, “but there wasn’t a pushback as there is now.”

He pointed to the fact that in the past eight years or so, many countries have adopted laws designed to restrict the funding and activities of nongovernmental organizations, especially human rights NGOs.

And he alleged that powerful U.N. member states stop human rights officials from speaking in the Security Council, while China and some other members “go to extraordinary lengths to prevent human rights defenders [from] entering the [U.N.] building even, let alone participate in the meetings.”

In March 2018, for example, Russia used a procedural maneuver to block then-U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein from addressing a formal meeting of the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body, Gilmour said.

Zeid was able to deliver his hard-hitting speech soon afterward, but only at a hurriedly organized informal council meeting where he decried “mind-numbing crimes“ committed by all parties in Syria.

Gilmour also cited the United States’ refusal to authorize the council to hold a meeting on the human rights situation in North Korea, a move that effectively killed the idea.

Rights of women, gays

UN Syria Human rights
U.S. United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft address the U.N. Security Council after a failed vote on a humanitarian/human rights draft resolution and for Syria. VOA

The rights of women and gays are also at stake, Gilmour said. He said nationalist authoritarian populist leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have made “derogatory comments” about both groups.

He said the U.S. is “aggressively pushing” back against women’s reproductive rights both at home and abroad. The result, he said, is that countries fearful of losing U.S. aid are cutting back their work on women’s rights.

Gilmour also pointed out a report issued in September that cited 48 countries for punishing human rights defenders who have cooperated with the U.N.

“I feel that we really need to do more — everybody … to defend those courageous defenders,” he said.

Gilmour said the U.N. should also stand up when it comes to major violations of international law and major violations of human rights, but “I have found it extremely difficult to do so in all circumstances.”

He said he was happy to hear that the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelly Craft, feels strongly about ensuring human rights.

“And I do hope that she will be gently and firmly held to that high standard,“ he said.

Gilmour said that after his departure from the U.N, he will take a fellowship at Oxford’s All Souls College, where he will focus on the importance of uniting human rights and environmental rights groups.

“The human rights impact of climate change — it’s going to be so monumental,” he said.

Also Read-UN to Allocate More Funds for War Crimes Inquiries in Syria and Myanmar

As he relinquishes his post, Gilmour said he is counting on younger generations to take up the mantle of human rights and fight for other causes aimed at improving the world.

“What gives me hope as we start a new decade is that there will be a surge in youth activism that will help people to get courage, and to stand up for what they believe in,” he said.  (VOA)