“There should be no discrimination against anyone,” he told BBC Indonesia on Wednesday.
BBC Indonesia reported Widodo made the comment in response to a question about efforts to prosecute people who are accused of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Widodo said the police “must act” to protect minority groups that face discrimination. He told BBC Indonesia that cultural norms do “not allow” what media reports described as the “LGBT lifestyle.”
“Islam does not allow it,” said Widodo.
Widodo’s comments come against the backdrop of an ongoing LGBT rights crackdown in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
The Indonesian Youth and Sports Ministry last week banned LGBT people from entering the process to become a “Creative Youth Ambassador.”
The Constitutional Court of Indonesia in August held a hearing on a lawsuit that seeks to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country. A commission in the Indonesian House of Representatives in March urged the country’s Ministry of Communications and Information to consider a bill that sought to block websites promoting so-called LGBT propaganda.
Indonesian authorities earlier this year shut down an Islamic school for transgender people in the city of Yogyakarta.
Lembaya Kesehatan Nahdlatul Ulama, which is part of Nahdlatul Ulama, an Indonesian group that supports the country’s LGBT rights crackdown, in 2012 received $2.6 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development to increase its capacity to detect tuberculosis cases and treat them. The grant will continue through next year.
Indonesian activist skeptical of Widodo’s comments
Dédé Oetomo, an LGBT rights advocate from the city of Surabaya, reacted to Widodo’s comments with skepticism.
“So putting pressure on him does work,” Oetomo told the Washington Blade on Thursday. “However he fell short of showing how to make the Muslim majority respect minority rights.”
Oetomo described Widodo as “a typical Javanese politician” who is a product of the era in which Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron-fist from 1967-1998.
Javanese refers to a person from the island of Java on which the Indonesian capital of Jakarta is located.
“Will he tell the government institutions and ministries to allow international NGOs, U.N. agencies to fund work in educating mainstream Muslims to respect human rights,” asked Oetomo, referring to Widodo.
Human Rights Watch also urged Widodo to do more to protect LGBT Indonesians.
“Only by using the power of his office can Jokowi ensure that Indonesia’s LGBT community is no longer threatened, discriminated against, or physically attacked by government officials or anyone else,” said the organization on Thursday.