Heading to Bali? Careful: Indonesia just banned sex outside of marriage

Dec 6 2022, 9:41 pm

Indonesian legislators have approved a new criminal code that outlaws sex outside marriage.

The new criminal code will come into effect in three years, and replaces the country’s old one from Dutch colonial times.

The new laws forbid extramarital sex and unmarried couples living together, both of which are punishable by jail time. The new rules apply to both locals and foreigners, including on islands popular with tourists such as Bali.

The Southeast Asian country doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, leaving members of the LGBTQSI+ community vulnerable to persecution.


Demonstrators protest problematic elements of Indonesia’s new criminal code. (@amnestyindo/Twitter)

Veronica Koman, a human rights lawyer with Amnesty International Australia, tweeted that the new criminal code is about more than just sex — saying it’s a “death knell” to democracy that transports Indonesia to the “dark ages.”

“This violates people’s fundamental right to privacy,” Human Rights Watch’s Director of Asia Advocacy John Sifton told Daily Hive. “There is so much potential for abuse in the form of police extorting bribes… or just personal vendettas.”

Sifton also predicts the rewritten criminal code will have a negative impact on tourism — a key contributor to the country’s economy. Even if enforcement is uneven, and police on islands popular with tourists turn a blind eye, many visitors will be discouraged from going just knowing they’re at risk.

According to Reuters, police will need a complaint from a family member to lay charges — making it harder for foreigners to be prosecuted than Indonesians.

The new legislation also includes punishment for insulting political leaders and expands on laws against blasphemy. In addition, it tightens restrictions on contraception and abortion.

Sifton credits a rise in religious extremism in the Muslim-majority country for pushing this law to be passed. He said even moderate politicians feel pressure to support laws like this, less they be viewed as “insufficiently religious.”

“We’ve been warning about this for years,” Sifton said. “It started with [the] persecution of religious minorities.”

He added there will be constitutional challenges to the new criminal code in the coming years, saying there are arguments it violates provisions in the Indonesian constitution.

Marilyne Guèvremont, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, told Daily Hive the government is watching the developments related to the Indonesian criminal code closely.

” Canada believes that strong protection of the right to freedom of expression and the rights of women, girls and LGBTQSI+ communities are fundamental values that should never be undermined. Canada will always advocate for the rights of LGBTQSI+ communities, here at home and across the world.”


Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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