Asia-Pacific

Anger as Indonesia moves to criminalise sex outside marriage

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced a delay of the laws. Source: Getty

Rights groups say Indonesia's proposed criminal code 'violates the rights of women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people'.

Millions of Indonesians may find themselves at risk of jail as the country moves to pass a new sweeping criminal code that would outlaw sex outside marriage.

Rights groups have widely condemned the proposed criminal leigslation, which also introduces heavily penalties for insulting the president and sets additional restrictions around contraception and abortions.

Protesters walk during a Women's March in Jakarta.
Protesters walk during a Women's March in Jakarta.
Getty

Indonesia's penal codes date back to the Dutch colonial era, but critics say the new 628-article revision tramples basic freedoms.

The laws look set to be adopted later this month after parliament and the government reportedly agreed to a draft on Wednesday.

In a statement on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said, "the current bill contains articles that will violate the rights of women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as freedom of speech and association".

Under the proposed laws, unmarried couples who "live together as a husband and wife" could be jailed for six months or face a maximum fine of 10 million rupiah ($1,000).

A prosecution can proceed if a village chief, who heads the lowest tier of government, files a complaint with police, and parents or children of the accused do not object. Parents, children and spouses can also lodge a complaint.

The inclusion of the new power for village chiefs was warranted because "the victim of adultery is also society", politician Teuku Taufiqulhadi told Reuters.

The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, an NGO, said millions of Indonesians could be ensnared by the new laws. It noted a study indicating that 40 per cent of Indonesian adolescents engaged in pre-marital sexual activity.

Another article in the controversial code states that anyone who is "to show, to offer, to broadcast, to write or to promote contraception to a minor" could face a prison term or fine.

Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch said, "the bill's provisions censoring information about contraception could set back the progress Indonesia has made in recent years to dramatically reduce maternal deaths".

The group also claims new restrictions around abortions "will set back women and girls' rights under international law to make their own choices about having children".

Protesters chant slogans against former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was jailed after being found guilty of blasphemy.
Protesters chant slogans against former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was jailed after being found guilty of blasphemy.
Getty

The bill expands Indonesia’s 1965 Blasphemy Law, which increases the enumeration of "the elements of crimes" to include defaming religious artifacts.

Mr Harsono said, "Indonesia’s parliament should be encouraging free speech and association, and limiting – not expanding – the Blasphemy Law".

"Lawmakers should remove all the abusive articles before passing the law," he said.

Indonesia is officially secular, but there has been a rise in politicians demanding a larger role for Islam in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country.

Additional reporting: Reuters

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