Indonesia Bans Sex Outside Marriage, to Penalize Offenders with One-Year Jail

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Indonesia's parliament is expected to pass a new criminal code that will penalise sex outside marriage, with a punishment of up to one year in jail, officials have confirmed.

The legislative overhaul will also ban insulting the president or state institutions and expressing any views counter to Indonesia's state ideology. In addition, cohabiting of unwed couples will also be banned as part of the new criminal code.

New Criminal Code Expected Go into Effect on Dec 15

Decades in the making, the new criminal code is expected to be passed on 15 December, Indonesia's deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, told Reuters.

"We're proud to have a criminal code that's in line with Indonesian values," he told Reuters. Bambang Wuryanto, a lawmaker involved in the draft, said the new code could be passed by as early as next week.

The draft has the support of some Islamic groups in a country where conservatism is on the rise, although opponents argue that it reverses liberal reforms enacted after the 1998 fall of authoritarian leader Suharto.

A previous draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019 but sparked nationwide protests. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated at the time against a raft of laws, especially those seen to regulate morality and free speech, which they said would curtail civil liberties.

Indonesia protests
Demonstrators protesting against the proposed criminal code in 2019. Twitter

Critics say minimal changes to the code have been made since then, although the government has in recent months held public consultations around the country to provide information about the changes.

Sex Outside Marriage can be Reported by Close Relatives

Some changes that have been made include a provision that could allow the death penalty to be commuted to life imprisonment after 10 years of good behaviour. The criminalisation of abortion, with the exception of rape victims, and imprisonment for "black magic", remain in the code.

According to the latest draft dated 24 November, which was seen by Reuters, sex outside marriage, which can only be reported by limited parties such as close relatives, carries a maximum one-year prison sentence. Insulting the president, a charge that can only be reported by the president, carries a maximum of three years.

Huge Setback to Indonesian Democracy, Say Human Rights Activists

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, has hundreds of regulations at the local level that discriminate against women, religious minorities, and LGBTQ+ people.

The changes to the code would be a "huge setback to Indonesian democracy", said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch.

The deputy justice minister dismissed the criticism, saying the final version of the draft would ensure that regional laws adhered to national legislation, and the new code would not threaten democratic freedoms.

A revised version of the criminal code has been discussed since Indonesia declared its independence from the Dutch in 1945.

This article was first published on December 2, 2022
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