President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo

LGBT discrimination has continued to worsen in Indonesia.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made his first public comments against the escalating discrimination experienced by the country’s LGBT population.

“The police must act [to protect them],” Jokowi told the BBC. “There should be no discrimination against anyone,” he affirmed.

Jokowi’s support comes after months of increasing anti-LGBT rhetoric from politicians and officials and several anti-LGBT directives by government institutions.

At the time, the Human Rights Watch described the movement as a “sustained assault” against the LGBT community.

A lesbian activist in Indonesia spoke to HRW and said: “The impact of anti-LGBT rhetoric from government officials is enormous for us as individuals. For those of us who have worked so hard and risked so much to come out, it is a major step backward.”

“Jokowi’s long-overdue statement in support of LGBT nondiscrimination is a breath of fresh air as Indonesian officials and politicians continue their abusive and ill-informed homophobic onslaught,” Kyle Knight, LGBT researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Time.

“The thick cloak of social sanction created by the anti-LGBT cacophony of dozens of public figures won’t dissolve simply because the president finally expressed his support for basic rights,” Knight continued. “But it does signal that the Jokowi administration is keen on cultivating an Indonesia that is inclusive and safe for everyone.”

Only last week, Indonesia’s Youth and Sports Ministry banned LGBT people from entering the selection process for the “Creative Youth Ambassador”. The justification for that ban included challenging LGBT people for alleged “promiscuity and sexually deviant behaviour,” and questioning whether they are “physically and mentally healthy.”