Nearly two weeks ago, Indonesia’s Communication and Informatics Minister Rudiantara asked the Google Play Store to block Indonesians from downloading nearly 73 LGBTQ apps, including social networking apps. Google has partially accommodated this request by removing one gay dating app — China’s Blued — from its Indonesian Google Play store, but it’s unclear whether the global web technology company will comply and block other LGBTQ apps in Indonesia.
This is actually a big deal because it show’s Google’s willingness to comply with a government’s desire to keep LGBTQ people from finding one another online. Gay social apps remain a vital tool for helping members of oppressed communities find one another safely and virtually within an unsafe, real-world environment.
Thus far, LGBTQ apps in Indonesia remain available in the country via Apple’s iPhones and app store.
Blocking LGBTQ apps in Indonesia is just the tip of the anti-gay iceberg
Google’s removal of one of several LGBTQ apps in Indonesia happens at a time when the country’s legislators are deciding whether to change its laws to criminalize same-sex sexual encounters, making gay sex illegal with a punishment of up to five years in prison.
As of now, Indonesia doesn’t criminalize gay sex, and in December 2017 the country’s high court refused to criminalize it. Homosexuality is only illegal right now in the province of Aceh. A 2014 penal code in Aceh outlawed same-sex relationships between male and female couples, making it punishable by caning, 100 months in jail or a $35,000 fine.
Even if the Asian nation doesn’t criminalize homosexuality, a governmental crackdown on its LGBTQ citizens has been going on for nearly three years now. After publicly humiliating 141 men arrested in a gay sauna, the capitol city founded an anti-LGBTQ police force, the government proposed a law to ban all LGBTQ TV content, the Air Force called LGBTQ identity “a mental disorder,” the country tried to shut down an international gay sporting event and one region in particular recently arrested 12 transgender women and shaved their heads to “make them men.”
Economists estimate that Indonesia’s anti-LGBTQ policies have cost the country anywhere from $900 million to $12 billion in lost revenue per year.
Featured image by Bicho_raro via iStock