Indonesia bans sex outside marriage in new criminal code
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[December 06, 2022]
By Ananda Teresia and Kate Lamb
JAKARTA (Reuters) -Indonesia's parliament approved a new criminal code
on Tuesday that bans sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one
year in jail, despite worries the laws may scare away tourists from its
tropical shores and harm investment.
The new code, which will apply to Indonesians and foreigners alike, also
prohibit cohabitation between unmarried couples. It will also ban
insulting the president or state institutions, spreading views counter
to the state ideology, and staging protests without notification.
The laws were passed with support from all political parties.
However, the code will not come into effect for three years to allow for
implementing regulations to be drafted.
Currently, Indonesia bans adultery but not premarital sex.
Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia's tourism industry board, said
the new code was "totally counter-productive" at a time when the economy
and tourism were starting to recover from the pandemic.
"We deeply regret the government have closed their eyes. We have already
expressed our concern to the ministry of tourism about how harmful this
law is," he said.
Foreign arrivals in the holiday destination of Bali are expected to
reach pre-pandemic levels of six million by 2025, the tourism
association has said previously, as the island recovers from the impacts
Indonesia is also trying to attract more so-called "digital nomads" to
its tropical shores by offering a more flexible visa.
Speaking at an investment summit, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim
said the news could result in less foreign investment, tourism and
travel to the Southeast Asian nation.
"Criminalising the personal decisions of individuals would loom large
within the decision matrix of many companies determining whether to
invest in Indonesia," he said.
Albert Aries, a spokesperson for Indonesia's justice ministry, said the
new laws regulating morality were limited by who could report them, such
as a parent, spouse or child of suspected offenders.
"The aim is to protect the institution of marriage and Indonesian
values, while at the same time being able to protect the privacy of the
community and also negate the rights of the public or other third
parties to report this matter or 'playing judge' on behalf of morality,"
These laws are part of a raft of legal changes that critics say
undermine civil liberties in the world's third-largest democracy. Other
laws include bans on black magic.
'A DEATH FOR INDONESIA'S DEMOCRACY'
Editorials in national newspapers decried the new laws, with daily
newspaper Koran Tempo saying the code has "authoritarian" tones, while
the Jakarta Post said it had "grave concerns" about their application.
[to top of second column]
Bambang Wuryanto, head of the
parliamentary commission overseeing the revision, passes the report
of the new criminal code to Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, Deputy speaker of the
House of Representatives, during a parliamentary plenary meeting in
Jakarta, Indonesia, December 6, 2022. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Decades in the making, legislators hailed the passage of the
criminal code as much needed overhaul of a colonial vestige.
"The old code belongs to Dutch heritage ... and is no longer
relevant now," Bambang Wuryanto, head of the parliamentary
commission in charge of revising the code told lawmakers.
Opponents of the bill have highlighted articles they say will curb
free speech and represent a "huge setback" in ensuring the retention
of democratic freedoms after the fall of authoritarian leader
Suharto in 1998.
"This is not only a setback but a death for Indonesia's democracy,"
said Citra Referandum, a lawyer from Indonesia’s Legal Aid
Institute. "The process has not been democratic at all."
Responding to the criticism, Indonesia's Law and Human Rights
Minister Yasonna Laoly told parliament: "It's not easy for a
multicultural and multi-ethnic country to make a criminal code that
can accommodate all interests."
Legal experts say that an article in the code on customary law could
reinforce discriminatory and sharia-inspired bylaws at a local
level, and pose a particular threat to LGBT people.
"Regulations that are not in accordance with human rights principles
will occur in conservative areas," said Bivitri Susanti, from the
Indonesia Jentera School of Law, referring to existing bylaws in
some regions that impose curfews on women, or target what are
described as "deviant" sexualities.
The new laws will also include more lenient sentences for those
charged with corruption.
The morality charges have been partially watered down from an
earlier version of the bill so that they can only reported by
limited parties, such as a spouse, parent or child.
The government had planned to pass a revision of the country's
colonial-era criminal code in 2019 but nationwide protests halted
Lawmakers have since diluted down some of the provisions with
President Joko Widodo urging parliament to pass the bill this year,
before the country's political climate heats up ahead of the
presidential elections scheduled for early 2024.
The public response to the new code has been muted so far, with only
small protests held in the capital on Monday on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Ananda Teresia; Writing by Kate Lamb;Editing by Ed
Davies and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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