Indonesia bans sex outside of marriage as parliament passes sweeping new penal code

Jakarta, Indonesia

indonesian lawmaker A sweeping new penal code was unanimously passed Tuesday to criminalize sex outside of marriage, part of a series of changes that critics say threaten human rights and freedoms in the Southeast Asian nation.

The new code, which also applies to foreign residents and tourists, bans cohabitation before marriage, apostasy and penalizes insulting the president or expressing views against the state’s ideology.

“All agreed to ratify (the draft changes) into law,” said Bambang Wuryanto, head of a parliamentary committee tasked with revising the colonial-era code. “The old codes belong to the Dutch heritage…and are no longer relevant.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said he hoped Indonesians understood that lawmakers had done everything they could to meet “public aspirations”.

He said it was not easy for a multicultural and multi-ethnic country to have a penal code that “balances all interests” and invited disaffected parties to submit to the Constitutional Court for judicial review.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has seen a rise in religious conservatism in recent years. Strict Islamic laws are already in place in parts of the country, including the semi-autonomous province of Aceh, which bans alcohol and gambling. The area also carries out public caning for a range of crimes, including homosexuality and adultery.

On the eve of Tuesday’s vote, rights groups and critics warned the new code would “disproportionately affect women” and further restrict human rights and freedoms in a country of more than 270 million people.

“What we are witnessing is a massive setback to Indonesia’s hard-won progress in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms after the 1998 revolution. This penal code should never have been passed in the first place,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia. Say.

The new penal code is 200 pages long and has been years in the making.

A previous draft of the code was due to be passed in 2019, but the vote was delayed after thousands of protesters, mostly students, took to the streets demanding the government withdraw the code.

In a televised address at the time, President Joko Widodo said he would postpone the vote after “seriously considering the feedback from all parties who challenged some substantive elements of the penal code.”

Hamid, from Amnesty International Indonesia, noted that “nothing meaningful has changed” since 2019.

youSex outside of marriage could be punishable by a year in prison, according to the version passed Tuesday, although there are restrictions on who can file a formal complaint. For example, parents of children living together before marriage have the right to report.

In addition to introducing new offences, the Code expanded existing laws and penalties. The blasphemy law has been increased from “one to six” and is now punishable by five years in prison, according to a draft document.

Hamid said the laws on insulting national leaders and unsanctioned protests would have a “chilling effect” on free speech.

“Reinstating the ban on insulting the president and vice president, the current government, and state institutions would further have a clear chilling effect on free speech and criminalize legitimate criticism,” he said.

“Banning unsanctioned public demonstrations may unduly restrict the right to peaceful assembly.”

“Furthermore, the ‘morality clause’ can even be abused to criminalize victims of rape and sexual violence as adultery, even targeting members of gender minorities,” he added.

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the laws were “a setback to Indonesia’s already declining religious freedom,” and warned that “non-believers could be prosecuted and imprisoned.”

“The danger of oppressive laws is not that they are widely applied, but that they provide an avenue for selective enforcement,” he said.

Hadi Rahmat Purnama of the Faculty of Law at the University of Indonesia said the laws would be implemented after a three-year transition period.

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