Indonesia to make sex outside marriage punishable by jail

Parliament set to pass new criminal code.

December 02, 2022
Indonesia's parliament is set to pass a new criminal code
Indonesia's parliament is set to pass a new criminal code

JAKARTA — Indonesian lawmakers are soon expected to pass a new criminal code that will criminalize sex outside marriage and outlaw insults against state institutions.

The deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, said in an interview with Reuters that the new criminal code was expected to be passed on December 15. “We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with Indonesian values,” he said.

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

The new criminal code will make sex outside marriage punishable by up to one year in jail, officials confirmed.

The legislative overhaul will also ban insulting the president or state institutions and expressing any views counter to Indonesia’s state ideology. Cohabitation before marriage is also banned.

The code, if passed, would apply to Indonesian citizens and foreigners alike, with business groups expressing concern about what damage the rules might have on Indonesia’s image as a holiday and investment destination.

A previous 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 raft of laws, especially those seen to regulate morality and free speech, which they said would curtail civil liberties.

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

Some changes that have been 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, with the exception of rape victims, and imprisonment for “black magic,” remain in the code.

According to the latest draft dated November 24 that was seen by Reuters, sex outside marriage, which can only be reported by limited parties such as close relatives, carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.

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

Just weeks after Indonesia chaired a successful G20 meeting that saw its position elevated on the global stage, business sector representatives say the draft code sends the wrong message about Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

While the draft has the support of some Islamic groups, others fear it would be disastrous for democratic and civil liberties. Nurina Savitri, a campaign manager at Amnesty International Indonesia, said there were dozens of articles that could be used to stifle dissent.

“There are at least 88 articles containing broad provisions that could be misused and misinterpreted by both authorities and the public to criminalize those who peacefully express their opinions or exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and association,” she said.

Savitri raised concerns over a provision that would criminalize “unsanctioned public demonstrations” that cause public unrest, which she said could be used to restrict peaceful assembly.

The bill also maintains imprisonment as a penalty for defamation, and raises the prison term for those found guilty of defaming public officials, Savitri said.

“For the business sector, the implementation of this customary law shall create legal uncertainty and make investors reconsider investing in Indonesia,” said Shinta Widjaja Sukamdani, the deputy chairperson of Indonesia’s Employers’ Association (APINDO).

Clauses related to morality, she added, would “do more harm than good,” especially for businesses engaged in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

The changes to the code would be a “huge setback to Indonesian democracy,” said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch.

The deputy justice minister dismissed the criticism, saying the final version of the draft would ensure that regional laws adhered to national legislation, and the new code would not threaten democratic freedoms.

A revised version of the criminal code has been discussed since Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands in 1945. — Agencies

December 02, 2022
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