The norm in the new penal code approved by the Parliament of the largest country with an Islamic majority. Activists but also economic operators are against: investments and tourism in danger
New squeeze on rights in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, recently a protagonist on the world stage for hosting the G20. Yesterday, the Indonesian parliament approved a new penal code that criminalizes sex outside marriage and makes it a crime punishable by one year in prison. Until now, only adultery was prohibited by law.
In the new code, there are other provisions of a “moral” nature, including one that prohibits unmarried couples from living together.
Prohibitions that also apply to foreignerstherefore intended to alert away the visitors and the millions of tourists who flock to Bali each year.
The new code will enter effective in three years and it is seen as just the latest of measures that are steadily eroding the civil liberties of an Islamic-majority country once considered one of the most tolerant. In recent years, Jakarta has implemented laws deemed increasingly repressive and discriminatory, particularly against the LGBTQ+ community. In December 2019, to say, introduced a sexual orientation test compulsory for foreign teachers in certain private schools. Same-sex marriages are illegal nationwide, and homosexuality is illegal in the Autonomous Province of Aceh, the only province in Indonesia where Sharia law is in effect. But a new article on customary law raises fears that some local regulations inspired by Islamic law could be replicated in other areas, reinforcing discrimination against women and LGBT groups.
The new code replaces that of 1946, which came into force after the independence of the Netherlands. “The old code goes back to Dutch heritage… and is no longer relevant.” said MP Bambang Wuryanto, who headed the commission to revise the colonial-era text. Its modification has been debated for decades. The first draft of the new Penal Code was presented in September 2019, but was withdrawn due to strong protests from students and activists. Now it has moved to a “lite” version: premarital and extramarital sexual acts can only be denounced by the spouse, parents or children, which effectively limits the scope of the text.
Rights activists fear the new laws could just as well lend a hand to the morality police and point fingers a growing slide towards fundamentalism in a country long acclaimed for its religious tolerance, with secularism enshrined in its constitution.
It’s not just activists who are on the alert. Just weeks after hosting the G20, a summit that strengthened Indonesia’s position on the world stage, the critics also the representatives of the company: the new code threatens to damage the image of the country as a tourist and investment destination, warned Shinta Widjaja Kamdani, vice-president of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce. L’national tourist office which is trying to attract foreign visitors after the pandemic defined the new code as “harmful and totally counterproductive“.
December 6, 2022 (change December 6, 2022 | 11:48 a.m.)
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