Indonesia summoned the British ambassador on Monday over an LGBTQ flag displayed at the UK embassy, as Jakarta called on foreign envoys to respect local sensitivities in a country where same-sex relationships remain taboo.
Gay sex is legal in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, save for one province, but there is widespread discrimination against the LGBTQ community and some gay Indonesians have been arrested under the anti-pornography law.
Last week, the embassy posted an Instagram photo of a rainbow flag in its premises to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It was accompanied by a message of support for LGBT rights.
A backlash ensued among conservative Indonesians online in response to a social media post, and Jakarta’s Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned British Ambassador Owen Jenkins for clarification. “This measure, along with the dissemination of (the photo) via the British embassy’s official social media account, is extremely insensitive,” ministry spokesman Toko Vaizyasyah told AFP on Monday.
“The ministry would like to remind the foreign envoys to respect the sensitivity of cultural and religious values,” he added. The embassy did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
Influential Conservatives criticized the embassy for raising the rainbow flag alongside the British Union flag. The head of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the Indonesian Ulema Council, said the diplomatic mission was disrespectful for its public support for LGBT rights.
“We must reprimand them that as a guest, one must know where they are and understand the standards in the country they are in,” Cholil Nafis wrote to 68,000 followers on Twitter on Saturday.
Same-sex relationships are illegal in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province, where they can result in public floggings under local Islamic law. Although the LGBTQ community has been tolerated elsewhere in the country, it has faced increasing pressure on their rights and freedoms.
Islamists and conservative lawmakers have attempted to criminalize same-sex relations, and homosexuals often openly face discrimination. Conversion therapy including exorcisms to “cure” homosexuality remains popular and gay sex is prohibited in the military.
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