The Jakarta Post
A minister has found himself on the receiving end of angry scorn and fierce criticism following comments he made attacking the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir took to his Twitter account @menristekdikti on Monday to clarify the statement he made on Sunday, in which he said that LGBT 'corrupted the nation's morals'.
He tweeted that the presence of LGBT people in society necessitated in-depth studies by academics considering Indonesia's stance as a country that believes in God and upholds humanity and civilization.
Nasir agreed that members of the LGBT community, as Indonesian citizens, were entitled to equality before the law.
"But that does not mean that the state legitimizes the LGBT status. Only their rights as citizens must be guaranteed by the state," he tweeted on Monday to his 16,500 followers.
His earlier comments that LGBT elements should be barred from universities as there were "values and moral standards to uphold" met with a wave of public fury and criticism.
His comments were in response to the establishment of the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies (SGRC) at the University of Indonesia (UI). The group offers counseling for LGBT students. UI has denied all knowledge of the group, which it says is not an official university-affiliated student society.
On his Twitter account, Nasir backtracked on his previous comments, saying that universities should not prohibit any activities or discussions that aimed to educate students.
"I would only ban LGBT people from entering campuses if they engage in disgraceful behavior like making love or showing affection," he published. His message was subsequently retweeted by dozens of his followers.
He urged universities across the country to provide thorough mentoring for all students, noting that campus environment had a major influence on students.
"It is an individual's right to be gay or lesbian, but the academic atmosphere must not be disrupted," he said.
A petition issued on change.org by a student named Poedjiati Tan from Surabaya demands that Nasir withdraw his comments regarding LGBT and morality, as well as his calls for a ban on LGBT people within universities.
The petition, published on Sunday, had by Monday afternoon been signed by 1,362 supporters. (rin)(+)