Dhe once-liberal Indonesia is taking another step toward a far more conservative Islamic society. The new penal code passed by parliament on Tuesday bans sex outside of marriage – for both men and women. Some Indonesians were shocked by the laws, which carry penalties of up to a year in prison. Not only Indonesians are affected by the changes, foreign tourists are also subject to the law, which also provides for penalties of up to six months in prison for unmarried people living together. One limitation is that complainants can only be spouses, parents and children.
The Indonesian human rights activist Andreas Harsono spoke to the FAZ of a “drastic turnaround” and a “boundless catastrophe” for human rights in the Muslim-majority country. With one swipe, millions of Indonesians would be on the verge of being treated as criminals. A few Indonesians have protested against the amendment to the law in recent days. In 2019, President Joko Widodo’s government attempted to get a revised criminal code through parliament. At the time, however, she withdrew it after strong protests.
Insults to the President will also be banned in the future
The new criminal law is also controversial in other respects. It includes tough laws against blasphemy and abortion and upholds the death penalty. In addition, insulting the President, Vice President and state institutions is punishable by up to three years in prison. The dissemination of Marxist-Leninist ideas is also expressly forbidden. The critics see these innovations as a curtailment of freedom of expression. It will be a while before the laws actually come into force. The government envisages a transition phase of up to three years. Until then, the penal code adopted by the Dutch colonial masters remains in force. In addition, the President still has to sign the new legislation. Because of the colonial past, many Indonesians see the new version as an emancipatory act.
The new penal code also has an impact on homosexuals. Since marriages of same-sex couples are illegal in Indonesia, same-sex sex is also completely criminalized. However, a planned outright ban on homosexual intercourse was dropped from the draft. That being said, advocates of stricter and religiously motivated laws have prevailed. As the “New York Times” writes, the Vice President and Islamic scholar Ma’ruf Amin was one of the advocates of the tightened rules. Human rights activist Harsono fears that the passage could result in the recognition of hundreds of local Sharia laws. All of the country’s “living laws” are now expressly declared valid.
Critics of the penal code also include representatives of the tourism industry. They fear foreign visitors will be deterred. US Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Yong Kim warned that the “moral paragraphs” in the penal law could have a negative impact on the economy. The criminalization of personal circumstances would influence the decision of many entrepreneurs whether to invest in Indonesia, the American diplomat said.
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