February 4, 2023

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Indonesia plans to criminalize sex outside of marriage

Reuters —

Indonesia’s parliament is expected to pass a new penal code this month that will punish sex outside of marriage with a penalty of up to a year in prison, officials have confirmed to Reuters.

The revised law will also ban insulting the President or state institutions and the expression of views contrary to Indonesian state ideology. Living together before marriage is also forbidden.

After decades of preparation, the new penal code is due to be passed on December 15, Indonesia’s Deputy Justice Minister Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej told Reuters.

“We are proud to have a penal code that reflects Indonesian values,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Bambang Wuryanto, a lawmaker involved in the draft, said the new code could be passed as early as next week.

The code, if passed, would apply to Indonesian citizens and foreigners alike, with business groups raising concerns about the damage the rules could do to Indonesia’s image as a holiday and investment destination.

The bill has the backing of some Islamic groups in a country where conservatism is on the rise, although opponents argue it rolls back liberal reforms passed after authoritarian leader Suharto was ousted in 1998.

An earlier draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019 but sparked nationwide protests.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated at the time against a range of laws, particularly those that allegedly regulate morality and freedom of expression and which they said curtail civil liberties.

Critics say minimal changes have been made to the code since then, although the government has held public consultations across the country in recent months to provide information about the changes.

Some changes made include a provision that could allow the death penalty to be commuted to life imprisonment after 10 years of good behavior.

The criminalization of abortion, except for rape victims, and imprisonment for “black magic” remain in the statute book.

According to the latest Nov. 24 draft available to Reuters, extramarital sex that can only be reported by restricted individuals such as close relatives carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.

Insulting the President, a charge that can only be reported by the President, carries a maximum sentence of three years.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has hundreds of local-level regulations that discriminate against women, religious minorities and LGBTQ people.

Just weeks after Indonesia chaired a successful G20 meeting that bolstered its position on the global stage, business officials say the draft code is sending the wrong message about Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

“For the corporate sector, the implementation of this customary law will create legal uncertainty and prompt investors to reconsider investing in Indonesia,” said Shinta Widjaja Sukamdani, vice-president of the Employers’ Association of Indonesia (APINDO).

Moral clauses, she added, would “do more harm than good,” particularly for companies involved in tourism and hospitality.

The changes to the code would be a “major setback for Indonesian democracy,” said Human Rights Watch’s Andreas Harsono.

The deputy justice minister dismissed the criticism, saying the final version of the draft will ensure regional laws are in line with national legislation and the new code would not threaten democratic freedoms.

Since Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands in 1945, a revision of the penal code has been discussed.