Police in Indonesia arrested three women after they posted a video online claiming President Joko Widodo would legalise marriage equality if re-elected this year.
In the video, shared thousands of times online, two women can be seen using the threat of marriage equality in the majority-Muslim country as a scare tactic. They tell an elderly man Widodo would legalise same-sex marriage if re-elected.
Also, they insist a re-elected Widodo will end the call to prayer. They also claimed he would force women to remove their hijab in public.
Ahead of the April presidential elections, authorities battled numerous misinformation campaigns and the spread of fake news.
Local police spokesperson Trunoyudho Wisnu Andiko said false claims about Widodo intend to confuse voters and weaken his chances of re-election.
“[The arrests are] a preventative measure because this could potentially trigger anxiety and conflict in our society,” Andiko said.
East Java provincial police arrested the women linked to the video’s creation and publication of the video online, citing their spread of misinformation as grounds for the arrest.
Due to Indonesia’s laws on electronic information and hate speech, the women might face up to six years of jail time if proven guilty.
But Widodo, a practicing Muslim, has not supported any LGBTIQ policies since being elected in 2014.
Homosexuality not illegal
Homosexuality is not illegal in most of Indonesia. However, for the last three years, a moral panic over LGBTIQ people engulfed the country. Human rights groups describe the panic as ‘government-driven’.
Human rights advocates warn that regional Indonesian authorities already ramped up anti-LGBTI rhetoric and activities ahead of elections this year.
Earlier, Indonesian police raided saunas, nightclubs, hotels, hair salons and homes looking for gay and transgender people.
The country has seen a growing number of by-laws and initiatives from local authorities oppressing LGBTIQ people. A by-law in the West Sumatran city of Pariaman sees gay and transgender people fined for immoral behaviour.
The Indonesian election is set to be held on April 17. Widodo’s main opposition is former general Prabowo Subiantom of the Great Indonesia Movement Party.
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