The Indonesian government has asked social media and messaging platforms not to use icons expressing support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in what is seen as its latest unofficial crackdown on LGBT people.

Information and Communication Ministry spokesman Ismail Cawidu issued the guidance after popular smartphone messaging app Line made available emoticons with gay themes in its online store.

"Social media must respect the culture and local wisdom of the country where they have large numbers of users," the spokesman said.

The government stepped into the debate after users of social media platforms Twitter and Facebook lashed out at Line for its gay content. Line said it took down the GBT-related stickers from its local store after the backlash.

The government said it would ask WhatsApp to remove gay-themed emoticons as well.

Homosexuality still remains a highly sensitive matter with several reported incidents of irate public targeting gay people.

Though the official government line supports plurality in society, rights watchers have said Indonesia stifles people's freedom of sexual choice.

In January, the minister for Higher Education, Muhammad Nasir, brazenly said gay students should be banned from campuses.

Again in last month, chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly, Zulkifli Hasan, hit out against homosexuals saying: "It does not fit with our culture, should be banned because it does not fit with the culture of Indonesia."

Though homosexuality is not illegal in Muslim majority Indonesia, in 2014, conservative province Aceh passed a law that punishes gay sex by public caning.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the latest anti-gay stance saying President Joko Widodo should rein in the "spate of hateful rhetoric by public officials against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people."

"These actions at state institutions violate the internationally protected rights to education, health, and access to information," HRW said.