Indonesia's president should do more to ensure official tolerance of gays in the conservative country, and stand up for social inclusion, Human Rights Watch said Friday.
The Information Ministry this week asked messaging and social media services such as WhatsApp and Twitter to drop emojis - cartoon figures representing emotions or actions - featuring same-sex couples.
President Joko Widodo "has long championed pluralism and diversity," said Graeme Reid, rights director for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues at HRW. "This is an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment."
The president "should urgently condemn anti-LGBT remarks by officials before such rhetoric opens the door to more abuses," he said.
Information Ministry spokesman Ismail Cawidu on Thursday defended the restriction, saying social media and messaging services "must respect the culture of the country where they have large numbers of users."
Line, one of the most popular instant messaging platforms in Indonesia, has removed its gay-themed emojis for the Indonesian market following complaints from some local users.
Science Minister Muhammad Nasir said last month that "LGBT groups must not be allowed to flourish" on university campuses.
Nasir later said homosexuals should be treated equally as citizens, but that they should be discreet and not make public displays of their affection.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. Homosexuality is not a crime, but is not widely accepted in the socially conservative society.