December 06, (THEWILL) – The Indonesian parliament, on Tuesday, approved a new criminal code restricting sex only to marriage.
The new code, which will apply to Indonesians and foreigners alike, also prohibits cohabitation between unmarried couples.
However, the code will not come into effect until after three years, to allow for the implementation of the regulations to be drafted.
Albert Aries, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s justice ministry, said the new laws regulating morality were limited by who could report them, such as a parent, spouse, or child of suspected offenders.
“The aim is to protect the institution of marriage and Indonesian values, while at the same time being able to protect the privacy of the community and also negate the rights of the public or other third parties to report this matter or ‘playing judge’ on behalf of morality”, he said.
Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, said the new code was “totally counter-productive” at a time when the economy and tourism were starting to recover from the pandemic.
“We deeply regret that the government has closed its eyes. We have already expressed our concern to the ministry of tourism about how harmful this law is”, he said.
Foreign arrivals in the holiday destination of Bali are expected to reach pre-Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels of six million by 2025, the tourism association said recently, as the island recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.
Indonesia is also trying to attract more so-called “digital nomads” to its tropical shores by offering a more flexible visa.
Speaking at an investment summit, US Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim said the news could result in less foreign investment, tourism, and travel to the Southeast Asian nation.
“Criminalising the personal decisions of individuals would loom large within the decision matrix of many companies determining whether to invest in Indonesia”, he said.
These laws are part of a raft of legal changes that critics say undermine civil liberties in the world’s third-largest democracy.
Other laws include bans on black magic, insulting the president or state institutions, spreading views contrary to state ideology, and staging protests without notification.
Editorials in national newspapers decried the new laws, with the daily newspaper, Koran Tempo, saying the code has “authoritarian” tones, while the Jakarta Post said it had “grave concerns” about their application.
Responding to the criticism, Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly told parliament that “It’s not easy for a multicultural and multi-ethnic country to make a criminal code that can accommodate all interests.”
Legal experts say that an article in the code on customary law could reinforce discriminatory and sharia-inspired bye-laws at a local level, and pose a particular threat to LGBT people.