Indonesia bans sex before marriage and cohabitation before marriage

Indonesia has just criminalised sex before marriage along with partners living together outside of marriage


Sex outside marriage is set to become illegal in Indonesia, after a new criminal code was unanimously passed in the country’s parliament on Tuesday.

The code criminalises sex outside of marriage with penalties of up to one year in jail. It also bans couples from living together before marriage, though only certain individuals have the authority to make a report to the police — ie. the parents of those living together without being married. 

The new laws were passed with the support of all political parties on Tuesday, though is expected to take around three years before it is fully implemented. 

Bambang Wuryanto, a lawmaker who spearheaded the parliamentary commission in charge of the new laws, said on Tuesday, “All have agreed to ratify the (draft changes) into law.”

“The old code belongs to Dutch heritage … and is no longer relevant.”

Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights, Edward Hiraeij said the new criminal code still needs to be signed by the president, though “a lot of implementing regulations that must be worked out, so it’s impossible in one year.”

The ban on sex before marriage is part of a wider network of new laws. Other criminalised acts include insulting the president or vice president, expressing dissenting views to the country’s national ideology, black magic, and promoting contraception. 

Abortion continues to be a crime, except when a woman has a life-threatening medical condition, or if she is a rape survivor, as long as the foetus is less than 12 weeks old.

Reaction to the new laws have been swift across the globe, with human rights groups saying the new laws violate human rights and freedoms in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation — which has a population of more than 276 million people.

“What we’re witnessing is a huge setback to Indonesia’s hard-won progress in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms after the 1998 revolution,” Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, said on Tuesday.

Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director, Usman Hamid said the new criminal code “should have never been passed in the first place and “a dramatic rollback of human rights progress in Indonesia.” 

“The fact that the Indonesian government and the House of Representatives agreed to pass a penal code that effectively stamps out many human rights is appalling,” he said in a statement.

“This contentious and overreaching new criminal code will only do more harm to an already shrinking civic space in Indonesia. [It] will further entrench obstacles to freedom of speech while criminalising legitimate and peaceful dissent.”

According to a draft document, blasphemy laws can now put someone in jail for a maximum of five years.

“Instead of destroying hard-won rights victories, the Indonesian government and the House of Representatives should live up to their human rights commitments for the benefit of all Indonesians,” Hamid said.

Andreas Harsono, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch Indonesia, said the laws are “a setback for already declining religious freedom in Indonesia.” 

“The danger of oppressive laws is not that they’ll be broadly applied, it’s that they provide avenue for selective enforcement,” he said.

In some parts of Indonesia, Islamic laws prohibit alcohol, gambling, homosexuality and adultery.

The new laws will apply to foreign residents and tourists — a decision that business groups warn will negatively impact the country’s tourism industry. 

Putu Winastra, chairman of the Association of the Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA) in Bali, believes the laws would “make foreigners think twice” about visiting the country

“From our point of view as tourism industry players, this law will be very troublesome,” Winastra told CNN. 

“Should we ask (overseas unmarried couples) if they are married or not? Do tourist couples have to prove that they are married? If these laws are really implemented later, tourists might be (subjected) to jail and this will harm tourism.” 

Harsono told ABC radio, “Let’s say an Australian tourist has a boyfriend or a girlfriend who is a local.” 

“Then the local parents or the local brother or sister reported the tourist to the police. It will be a problem… the selective law enforcement … means that it will only be implemented against certain targets.” 

“It might be hotels, it might be foreign tourists… that will allow certain police officers to extort bribes or certain politicians to use, let’s say, the blasphemy law, to jail their opponents.”

Despite the solace offered by Albert Aries, the spokesperson for Indonesia’s justice ministry who said that “Australian [tourists] shouldn’t be worried” since those making police complaints will likely be an Indonesian national — Phil Robertson, the Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch tweeted that the new laws will “blow up Bali’s tourism”.

“Why is @jokowi & his government trying to ruin the country’s tourism?”

Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, said “We deeply regret that government have closed their eyes. We have already expressed our concern to the ministry of tourism about how harmful this law is.”


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