Indonesian parliament approves legislation to outlaw extra-marital sex
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (at the podium and on the screens) speaks during the opening ceremony of the 8th G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia,
Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday approved legislation that would outlaw sex outside marriage in a move critics said was a huge setback to rights in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
After the new criminal code was endorsed by all nine parties in a sweeping overhaul of the legal code, deputy house speaker Sufmi Dasco Ahmad banged the gavel to signal the text was approved and shouted “legal.”
A revision of Indonesia’s criminal code, which stretches back to the Dutch colonial era, has been debated for decades.
Rights groups had protested against the amendments, denouncing a crackdown on civil liberties and political freedoms, as well as a shift towards fundamentalism in Muslim-majority Indonesia, where secularism is enshrined in the constitution. “We have tried our best to accommodate the important issues and different opinions which were debated,” Yasonna Laoly, Minister of Law and Human Rights, told parliament.
“However, it is time for us to make a historical decision on the penal code amendment and to leave the colonial criminal code we inherited behind.”
A provision in the text, states the new criminal code will be applicable in three years. Some of the most controversial articles in the newly passed code criminalize extra-marital sex, as well as the cohabitation of unmarried couples.
According to the text seen by AFP, illegal cohabitation will have a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment, and sex outside of marriage will be punished with one year in prison.
The spokesperson of the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s criminal code bill dissemination team, Albert Aries, defended the amendments before the vote and said the law would protect marriage institutions.
The article on extra-marital sex has been criticized by Indonesian business organizations as detrimental to tourism, though authorities insisted foreigners traveling to Bali would not be affected.
Before the vote, a shouting match erupted between a lawmaker from the Prosperous Justice Party, or PKS, and the deputy house speaker.
Bambang Wuryanto, head of the commission that oversaw deliberations on the text, acknowledged “this is a product by humans and hence it will never be perfect.” But he invited critics to “file a judicial review to the constitutional court” instead of demonstrating.
“We are going backward… repressive laws should have been abolished but the bill shows that the arguments of scholars abroad are true, that our democracy is indisputably in decline,” said Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid.