Jakarta: Indonesia’s parliament approved a new criminal code on Tuesday that bans sex outside marriage with a prison sentence of up to a year, despite concerns that the law will drive tourists away from its tropical shores. and can harm the investment. The new code, which will apply to Indonesians and foreigners alike, also prohibits cohabitation between unmarried couples. It was passed with the support of all political parties. However, the code will not take effect for three years to allow the rules to be drafted to be implemented. Currently, Indonesia bans adultery but not premarital sex.
Maulana Yusaran, deputy head of Indonesia’s Tourism Industry Board, said the new code was “completely counterproductive” at a time when the economy and tourism were beginning to recover from the pandemic.
“We deeply regret that the government has turned a blind eye. We have already expressed our concern to the Ministry of Tourism about how harmful this law is,” he said.
Foreign arrivals to the holiday destination of Bali are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels of six million by 2025, the tourism association has said earlier, as the island recovers from the effects of COVID-19.
Indonesia is also trying to attract so-called “digital nomads” to its tropical shores by offering more flexible visas.
Speaking at an investment summit, Sung Kim, the US ambassador to Indonesia, said the news could result in less foreign investment, tourism and travel to the Southeast Asian nation.
“The criminalization of individual decisions of individuals within the decision matrix of many companies determining whether or not to invest in Indonesia will be huge.”
Albert Aries, a spokesman for Indonesia’s justice ministry, said the new law regulating ethics limited who could report them, such as parents, spouses or children of suspected criminals.
“The aim is to protect the institution of marriage and Indonesian values, while at the same time being able to protect the privacy of the community and denying the rights of the public or other third parties to report the matter or ‘playing judge’ ethics” on behalf of,” he said.
The laws are part of legal changes that critics say undermine civil liberties in the world’s third-largest democracy. Other laws include prohibitions on black magic, insulting the president or state institutions, spreading ideas contrary to the ideology of the state, and protesting without notice.
‘A death for Indonesia’s democracy’
Editorials in national newspapers condemned the new laws, with the daily newspaper Koran Tempo saying the codes had “authoritarian” tones, while the Jakarta Post said there were “serious concerns” about their application.
Decades into the making, legislators hailed the passage of the Criminal Code, a much-needed change of a colonial relic.
“The old code belongs to Dutch heritage … and is no longer relevant,” Bambang Wurianto, head of the parliamentary commission revising the code, told lawmakers.
Opponents of the bill have highlighted articles they say would curb free speech and represent a “huge blow” in ensuring the retention of democratic freedoms following the fall of authoritarian leader Suharto in 1998.
“This is not only a blow to Indonesia’s democracy, but a death,” said Citra Referendum, a lawyer at Indonesia’s Legal Aid Institute.
Responding to the criticism, Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister Yasona Laoli told parliament: “It is not easy for a multicultural and multi-ethnic country to create a criminal code that can accommodate all interests.”
Legal experts say an article in the code on customary law could reinforce discriminatory and Sharia-inspired bylaws at the local level, and pose a particular threat to LGBT people.
“Regulations that are not in line with human rights principles will be in conservative areas,” said Biwitri Susanti of the Indonesia Gentera School of Law, referring to existing bylaws in some areas that impose curfews on women, or that are described as being targeted. Let’s do “deviant” sexuality.
The new laws will also include more lenient sentences for those accused of corruption.
Ethics allegations have been partially watered down from the previous version of the bill so that they can only be reported by limited parties, such as a spouse, parent or child.
The government had planned to pass amendments to the country’s colonial-era criminal code in 2019, but nationwide protests prevented it from being passed.
Lawmakers have diluted some of the provisions, with President Joko Widodo urging parliament to pass the bill this year, before the country’s political climate heats up ahead of a presidential election due in early 2024.
Public reaction to the new code has been muted so far, with only small protests taking place in the capital on Monday and Tuesday.