Indonesia ban on sex outside marriage ‘problematic’ for Bali tourists

“It is indeed problematic,” he said.

There is no exemption for non-Indonesians or holidaymakers in the code update and Zainal Arifin, head of the advocacy team at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, warned that the new laws “have the potential to [Indonesian] people and the foreign tourists”.

“This article has been criticized from the start. Civil society warned the government in 2019 that the government should not go into the private space,” he said.

The rewriting of the penal code has gone through many iterations and has been highly contentious. In 2019, protesters took to the streets in towns around the archipelago as an earlier version was about to be ratified.

According to Albert Aries, a lawyer who worked for the Indonesian government on the review, there were concerns from the tourism industry about the impact criminalizing adultery would have on the travel industry prior to its final approval.

But he said the laws on premarital and extramarital sex provided a balance “between respecting marital institutions and the private space.”

There is no exemption for non-Indonesians or vacationers in the code update.Credit:Fauzy Chaniago

“In the old draft, a village chief could file a complaint, but even in the 2019 draft, that part was already removed,” he said.

“Private space should not be encroached upon by a third party who has no relationship whatsoever. That means Australian [tourists] shouldn’t worry.”

Basari, the MP, also stressed “that is not necessary [for the tourism industry] to be worried”.

“The reason cohabitation is criminalized is that it is seen as a crime against the institution of marriage or a crime against the institution of the family,” he said. “That’s why only interested parties could file a complaint.”

The law on insulting the president or vice president, which carries a prison sentence of up to three years, is also complaint-based and can only be instituted by the office holders themselves.

But under the new code, people can be prosecuted for expressing views contrary to Indonesia’s national ideology, as well as for peacefully protesting without permission and for acts of blasphemy, which carry a prison sentence of up to five years.

Human Rights Watch Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said the “new penal code does not meet international human rights standards”.

He was particularly notable for the tightening of laws to protect religion. “The global trend now is to use the blasphemy law as little as possible,” he said. “Most Western countries have given up.

“Indonesia is now the only country in the world to expand its blasphemy law and include an apostasy law in its penal code.

“Anyone who persuades someone to be an unbeliever can be prosecuted and imprisoned. It is a setback for the already declining freedom of religion in Indonesia.”

— with Reuters and Bloomberg

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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