Instagram pulls gay Muslim comics at Indonesian government's request

Instagram has taken down an account that featured 10 comic strips carrying Indonesian text, including one depicting two men having sex.
Instagram has taken down an account that featured 10 comic strips carrying Indonesian text, including one depicting two men having sex.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (DPA) - Instagram has taken down an account that featured comic strips about a Muslim gay man's daily struggles after Indonesia demanded its removal, an official said on Wednesday (Feb 13).

Indonesia's Communication and Information Technology Ministry said it had sent a letter to Instagram requesting that the account, called #alpantuni, be taken down for lewd content.

"Instagram complied with the ministry's request," ministry spokesman Ferdinandus Setu said.

Communication Minister Rudiantara had warned that Instagram could be blocked if it ignored the demand.

The account featured 10 comic strips carrying Indonesian text, including one depicting two men having sex. It was accessible until around midnight on Tuesday.

Another post showed the character named Alpantuni being abused by other people for his sexuality.

Instagram could not be immediately reached for comment. Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, except in Aceh province, where syariah law is in force.

But the gay community have been under increased pressure since 2016 following homophobic rhetoric from officials and conservative Muslim groups amid growing advocacy for sexual minorities.

In recent years, police have occasionally raided places frequented by gay people and briefly detained them on suspicion of engaging in prostitution and pornographic acts.

Last year, the city of Pariaman in the devoutly Muslim West Sumatra province passed a by-law that imposes a fine of US$70 (S$95) for "homosexual and transgender activities".

Leaders in several Indonesian cities have also said they were considering issuing by-laws banning homosexual activities.