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Minister: I'm not against LGBT, just their public displays of affection

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Amid backlash following his statement on LGBTs, Muhammad Nasir, the Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education, defended himself Tuesday, January 26, denying he called for a ban on gay and lesbians from the campus of University of Indonesia.

His statements come after his controversial reaction last week to attacks on a student group called the Support Group and Resource Center On Sexuality Studies (SGRC), which has lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members and is known to give advice to LGBT students.

Nasir sided with anti-LGBT sentiments and was quoted as saying, “There are standards of values and morals to uphold. A university is a moral safeguard." He was also said sexuality is the choice of an individual, but said universities must uphold a conducive academic environment.

On Tuesday, Nasir responded to accusations of homophobia and denied he called for a ban on these groups, saying it is the specific actions of SGRC and LGBT that concern him.

"I have no complaint except that, they have the right to join organizations, every citizen has the right to that," he said. "Our problem is when they are showing romance, kissing, and making love (in front of the public)."

"We are not against LGBTs but the activity," he added.

He also said he had an LGBT friend in college, but when asked if he was homophobic, he said, "I have no idea."

Nasir also acknowledged that it was not his decision whether to ban LGBTs in campus or not.

"To ban or not to ban LGBT in campus is not my authority, so dont misunderstand," he said, adding he does not want to intervene and it is up to the university on how it will handle SGRC.

Asked what he knows of SGRC's activities in particular, he said education and research on sexuality is okay, but that he "got some reports about LGBT activity (in SGRC)."

SGRC co-founder Karima Nadya Melati has said SGRC at the University of Indonesia is a sexuality studies club, and not an LGBT club. 

His most recent statements come after online and public backlash to his first statements calling for a ban on LGBT students. 

Irine Roba, a member of PDI-struggle was among those who deplored Nasir's statement.

"As a minister, he should consider the campus as a base to strengthen the enforcement of anti-discrimination values, instead of blocking the activity of a group advocating gender issues," said Roba through a press release received by Rappler on Monday.

What do you think of his latest response? Tell us in the comments section below.  – Rappler.com

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