Indonesia Criminalizes Premarital Sex, Dissent for Visitors in New Law

By Dana Hathaway

Editorial Editor

On Dec. 6, Indonesia announced a sweeping new criminal code. The law revises the colonial-era code set in place by Dutch leaders before Indonesian independence in 1945.  Foreign residents and tourists are also subject to the code, which criminalizes premarital sex, abandonment of Islamic beliefs, and government criticism.

The criminal code runs 200 pages long and lays the groundwork for a variety of strict laws. Sex outside of marriage now carries up to one year in prison, while blasphemy — cussing — holds a five-year sentence. In recent years, Indonesia has seen a rise in religious conservatism as the world’s largest Muslim-majority country with 237 million Muslims (86 percent of the nation’s population). There are strict Islamic rules in several provinces, including Aceh, where alcohol and gambling are prohibited. Homosexuality and adultery are also punishable with public flogging in this region.

After the code was released, human rights activists raised concerns over clauses that enforce punishments for insulting the president, national ideology, or aspects of the Indonesian government. Protest without notification is also illegal under the revisions. Usman Hamid, executive director of human rights group Amnesty International Indonesia, said, “What we’re witnessing is a huge setback to Indonesia’s hard-won progress in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms after the 1998 revolution.”

The new laws are also causing concern among Indonesians in the tourism industry. A record of 305,244 people visited Bali in October 2022 alone. The strict laws could result in backlash for the popular holiday and honeymoon destination. Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism board, stated, “We deeply regret that the government has closed their eyes. We have already expressed our concern to the ministry of tourism about how harmful this law is.” While specifics around enforcing the laws have not released, the rules surrounding blasphemy and premarital sex could easily topple a successful economy built on tourism.

In a news conference on Dec. 6, Law and Human Right Minister Yasonna Laoly told the Indonesian parliament, “It’s not easy for a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country to make a criminal code that can accommodate all interests.” The Southeast Asian country will apply the new code three years after implementation guidelines are developed.

(Sources: CNN, NBC)

Categories: News, World

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