Indonesians protest against new law banning extramarital sex that applies to tourists too

The new law will kick in in three years.

Yen Zhi Yi | December 07, 2022, 02:47 PM

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On Dec. 6, Indonesia's parliament approved a new criminal code which bans sex outside marriage, leading to rights activists staging protests outside the parliament building, Euronews reported.

No extramarital sex

According to Reuters, the revised criminal code bans anyone from taking part in extramarital sex. Under this law, sex outside marriage will carry a jail term of up to one year.

The new code also prohibits cohabitation between unmarried couples, and applies to both locals and foreigners living in Indonesia or tourists vacationing in popular holiday spots like Bali.

For prosecutions to start, a complaint must be filed by the children, parents or spouse of the couple in question.

The law was passed with the support of all political parties, and will take effect in three years to allow for the drafting of implementation regulations.

Controversial code since 2019

The protests against the criminal code are not new, as activists throughout the country have previously protested against the draft code in September 2019. They objected to the draft code as it could threaten civil rights and liberties, as reported by The Guardian.

Daniel Winarta, a university student, told Reuters that cohabitation is "clearly a private matter", and that he will keep rejecting the code. He was among the small crowd of protesters who gathered outside the parliament building in Jakarta on Monday, Dec. 5.

Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid noted that the articles in the new code are “a setback to the protection of civil liberties” in Indonesia where religious conservatism and illiberalism are already prevalent, reported The Jakarta Post.

Potential blow to tourism

The deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, Maulana Yusran, expressed concern over how the new code was “totally counter-productive” to the efforts made to recover Indonesia’s economy and restore tourism levels, Reuters reported.

The tourism association previously estimated that foreign arrivals to the holiday destination of Bali could reach up to pre-pandemic levels of six million by 2025. However, the new code could prompt tourists, especially couples, who plan on visiting Indonesia to reconsider their travel plans.

Some twitter users have taken to the platform to express their frustration at the new law, with some fearing that they could be jailed even though they are tourists.

"Bali bonk ban"

According to the BBC, the new ban was widely reported in Australia, with some Australian media outlets dubbing it as the “Bali bonk ban”. Indonesia’s economy is highly dependent on tourism from Australia, which has been Indonesia’s top tourist source before the Covid pandemic.

Many tourists, not just Australians, travel to Bali for its tropical shores and all-night beach parties. Bali weddings and short weekend getaways have been equally popular among Southeast Asian tourists, but the new criminal code may dampen the mood in the coming years.

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Top image via Getty Images, AFP/Adek Berry