Police in Indonesia have arrested three women after they posted a video online claiming President Joko Widodo would legalise marriage equality if he’s 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, telling an elderly man Widodo would legalise same-sex marriage if re-elected, Agence France Presse reported.
They also told the man that if Widodo is re-elected, he would end the call to prayer, performed five times a day by those of Muslim faith, and force women to remove their hijab in public.
Ahead of the April presidential elections, authorities have said that the country has been battling against misinformation campaigns and the spread of fake news.
Local police spokesperson Trunoyudho Wisnu Andiko said false claims about Widodo are intended 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 jail time if proven guilty.
But Widodo, a practicing Muslim, has not supported any LGBTIQ policies since being elected in 2014.
Homosexuality is not illegal in most of Indonesia but for the last three years, the country has been engulfed in “government-driven moral panic” over LGBTIQ people, according to human rights groups.
Human rights advocates have warned that regional Indonesian authorities have ramped up anti-LGBTI rhetoric and activities ahead of elections this year.
Throughout 2017, police across Indonesia raided saunas, nightclubs, hotel rooms, hair salons and private homes on suspicion that gay or transgender people were inside.
The country has seen a growing number of by-laws and initiatives from local authorities oppressing LGBTIQ people, including a by-law in the West Sumatran city of Pariaman to fine gay or transgender people for immoral behaviours or “disturbing public order”.
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.