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Indonesia Outlaws Sex outside Marriage in New Criminal Code

Currently, Indonesia forbids adultery but not premarital sex

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

INDONESIA: Indonesian lawmakers approved a new criminal code on Tuesday that outlaws sex outside of marriage and restricts political freedom.

The new law, which will be applicable to both Indonesians and foreigners, forbids cohabitation between unmarried couples as well. 

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Additionally, it forbids advocating viewpoints at odds with the ideology of the state, disparaging the president or official institutions, and organising unannounced protests. All political parties supported the law’s passage.

The code won’t go into force, though, for three years to give time to create implementing regulations. Sex outside of marriage, which falls under the new code, carries a sentence of up to one year in prison. Currently, Indonesia forbids adultery but not premarital sex.

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A “disaster” for human rights

The slew of changes comes after a spike in religious conservatism in the Muslim-majority nation. Critics see the new code as a “disaster” for human rights and a possible hindrance to tourism and investment.

Maulana Yusran, the deputy head of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, claimed that the new code was “totally counter-productive” at a time when the nation’s economy and tourism industry were just beginning to recover from the pandemic.

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The tourism association has previously predicted that when the island recovers from the effects of COVID-19, foreign visitors to the popular tourist destination of Bali will approach pre-pandemic levels of six million by 2025.

Indonesia is also attempting to entice more so-called “digital nomads” to its tropical shores by providing a more accommodating visa.

Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, said the news might lead to a decline in foreign investment, tourism, and travel to the Southeast Asian country while speaking at an investment summit.

This week, a number of mostly young people’s groups demonstrated against the legislation outside the Jakarta parliament. There were skirmishes with the police in Jakarta as many people, including students, took to the streets. The new laws are anticipated to face legal challenges.

Ajeng, a 28-year-old Muslim woman who lives in the West Java city of Depok, claimed that because she has been cohabitating with her lover for the previous five years, she is now at risk.

She told the journalists, “Under the new rule, both of us might end up in jail if one of the family members decides to call the police.”

According to rights groups, the new regulations disproportionately harm women, LGBT people, and racial minorities.

New blasphemy rules

However, on Tuesday, lawmakers unanimously passed the new code, which contains over 600 articles.

The new legislation includes a large number of new provisions that criminalise immorality and blasphemy while limiting freedom of speech in politics and religion.

Andreas Harsano, the group’s Jakarta-based researcher, claimed that millions of Indonesian couples did not have marriage certificates, “particularly among Indigenous peoples or Muslims in rural regions” who had tied the knot in particular religious rites.

Since living together might result in a prison sentence of up to six months, he said, “These people will theoretically be breaking the law.”

The Act was also opposed by several businesses, who claimed it impeded investment and tourism. But legislators have praised updating laws that date back to Dutch colonial authority.

Albert Aries, a spokesman for Indonesia’s justice ministry, stated that the new morality regulations restrict who may report them, such as a parent, spouse, or child of suspected offenders.

“The objective is to safeguard the institution of marriage and Indonesian values while also being able to safeguard community privacy and also restrict the right of the public or other third parties to report this circumstance or “play judgement” on behalf of morality,” he said.

Six new blasphemy rules, including one for apostasy (renouncing a religion), are now included in the code. Indonesia will outlaw persuasion against non-believers for the first time since gaining independence.

Additionally, new defamation laws make it unlawful to disparage the president or state ideology. However, lawmakers claimed that they had expanded protections for free speech and “public interest” protests.

Since Indonesia’s democratic transition in 1998, strict laws prohibiting relationships and sex based on religion have been put into place in some regions of the nation of 267 million people.

The province of Aceh already upholds strict Islamic rule and has penalised those who partake in gambling, consume alcohol, or interact with people of the opposite sex.

In Indonesia, a large number of Islamic civic organisations have been campaigning for more influence in determining public policy in recent years.

A previous version of the code was scheduled to be adopted in 2019, but it sparked widespread opposition, with tens of thousands of people participating in rallies.

Also Read: 5.6 Magnitude Earthquake Shook Indonesia, 20 Dead and 300 Injured


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