Indonesian Parliament criminalizes sex outside marriage

Steph Deschamps / December 6, 2022

Indonesia's parliament has approved a law criminalizing sex outside of marriage, denounced as a setback to freedoms and a slide towards fundamentalism in the world's most populous Muslim country.
This reform of the penal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era, was adopted by a majority of deputies. It punishes extramarital sexual relations as well as the cohabitation of unmarried couples.
According to the text consulted by AFP, illegal cohabitation will be punishable by six months' imprisonment, and sexual relations outside marriage by one year's imprisonment.
"We have done our best to take into account the important issues and the different opinions that have been debated," Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly told parliament.
"However, it is time for us to take a historic decision on amending the penal code, and leave behind the colonial penal code that we inherited" when the country gained independence in 1949, he added. 
A spokesperson for the committee that drafted the bill at the Ministry of Justice, Albert Aries, said the reform will protect the institution of marriage.
He emphasized that premarital and extramarital sexual acts can only be reported by spouses, parents or children, which effectively limits the scope of the law.
But critics of the new law have denounced it as an attack on freedom of morals.
Human rights groups say the new amendments underscore a growing shift toward fundamentalism in a country long hailed for its religious tolerance and where secularism is enshrined in the constitution.
The new rules could also have a major impact on the LGBTQ community in Indonesia, where same-sex marriage is not allowed.
"We are going backwards...repressive laws should have been abolished. But the bill shows that the arguments of foreign academics are true, that our democracy is indisputably in decline," Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, told AFP.
About 100 people protesting against the bill had unfurled a yellow banner in Jakarta on Monday that read: "Reject the adoption of the revised penal code". 
Some of them put flower petals on the banner as they do for funerals.  According to Abdul Ghofar, an activist with the Indonesian environmental group WALHI, these symbolic acts reflected the public's "grief" at the impending passage of the revision.
Another demonstration to reject the new law was planned for Tuesday in front of the parliament building.
The law, which has yet to be signed by the president, will be applicable in three years.
Bambang Wuryanto, the head of the parliamentary committee that oversaw deliberations on the text, acknowledged that "it is a human product and therefore it will never be perfect. But he urged critics to "file a legal appeal with the constitutional court" instead of protesting.
      HTML Image as link