Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday approved legal amendments banning extramarital sex in a package of penal code changes that critics say is a blow to freedoms in the Asian country.
Rights groups protested the amendments which they say are a blow to civil liberties and a turn towards fundamentalism in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasona Lawley told delegates, “We have done our best to accommodate important issues and differing opinions.”
“However, the time has come to take a historic decision to amend the Penal Code and leave behind the colonial criminal code,” he added.
For decades this Southeast Asian country has been debating reform of its penal code, which dates back to its days as a Dutch colony.
– A year in prison –
Some of the most controversial articles of the new law criminalize pre- and extramarital sex, as well as cohabitation by unmarried couples.
There are fears about how these new rules could affect the LGBTQ community in Indonesia, where same-sex marriage is not permitted.
The article has also been criticized by trade organisations, who fear it will affect tourism. Officials say foreigners traveling to Bali will not be subject to this rule.
Having sex outside marriage would be punishable by up to one year in prison, according to the text seen by AFP. Unmarried couples living together would instead face six months in prison.
Albert Aries, spokesman for the team in charge of this law at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, defended the amendments and assured that these new rules would protect the institution of marriage.
– Limited range –
It also noted that pre- and extramarital sex can only be reported by a spouse, parent or child, limiting the scope of the review.
For human rights groups, the law stifles morality and turns towards fundamentalism in a country long praised for its religious tolerance, whose constitution upholds secularism.
“We are going backwards (…) The repressive laws should have been abolished, but this law shows that the arguments of academics abroad are valid, undeniable in our democracy,” Amnesty’s Indonesia director told AFP. steadily declining.” International, Usman Hamid.
For its part, the United States expressed concern about “how these changes may affect the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Indonesia,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Spreading an ideology contrary to official ideology is punishable by up to four years in prison in Indonesia.
In another reform approved on Tuesday, the death penalty, usually carried out in Indonesia for drug-related crimes, will be combined with a 10-year probationary period, after which it can be commuted to life if the convicted person shows exemplary behaviour. may be commuted to imprisonment. ,
A hundred people protested against the law on Monday and unfurled a yellow banner with the slogan: “Refuse to approve the amendment of the Penal Code.”