Indonesia passes law to penalise sex outside marriage

An activist shouts slogans during a protest, as Indonesia is set to pass a new criminal code that will ban sex outside marriage, cohabitation between unmarried couples, insulting the president, and expressing views counter to the national ideology, outside the Indonesian Parliament buildings in Jakarta, Indonesia, December 5, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Jakarta: Indonesia's Parliament has passed a long-awaited and controversial revision of its penal code that criminalises extramarital sex and applies to citizens and visiting foreigners alike. A parliamentary task force finalised the bill in November and lawmakers approved it Tuesday.

Among the most controversial revisions to the code are articles that would penalise sex outside of marriage with up to one year in jail and prohibit cohabitation between unmarried couples. Insulting the president and spreading views counter to the secular national ideology, known as the Pancasila, will also be outlawed.

The code maintains that abortion is a crime, but it adds exceptions for women with life-threatening medical conditions and for rape survivors, provided that the fetus is less than 12 weeks old, in line with what is already regulated in the 2004 Medical Practice Law.

Legal experts and civil society groups say such changes to the penal code are a "huge setback" for the world's third-largest democracy.

"The state cannot manage morality. The government's duty is not as an umpire between conservative and liberal Indonesia," said Bivitri Susanti, a law expert from the Indonesia Jentera School of Law.

Indonesia's population is predominantly Muslim and has sizeable groups of Hindus, Christians and people of other faiths. Most Indonesian Muslims practice a moderate version of Islam, but recent years have seen a rise in religious conservatism that has crept into politics.

Deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, and Bambang Wuryanto, head of the parliamentary commission overseeing the revision, told Reuters that parliament would hold a plenary session on Tuesday to ratify the new code.

Decades in the making, the revision of the country's colonial-era penal code has sparked mass protests in recent years, although the response has been considerably more muted this year.

Daniel Winarta, a University of Indonesia student, was among a small crowd of protestors that gathered outside parliament in Jakarta on Monday.

"On cohabitation, for example, it's clearly a private matter," he said. "We will keep rejecting this."

Parliament had planned to ratify a draft new code in September 2019, but nationwide demonstrations over perceived threats to civil liberties halted its passage.

Legislators have since watered down some of the articles deemed most contentious.

The latest articles on sex outside marriage and cohabitation state such complaints can only be reported by close relatives such as a spouse, parent or child. Meanwhile, only the president can file a complaint about being insulted, but such a crime will carry a three-year jail sentence.

Articles on customary law, blasphemy, protesting without notification and spreading views divergent from the Pancasila were all legally problematic because they could be widely interpreted, Bivitri said.

Once ratified, the new code will come into effect in three years' time as the government and related institutions draft related implementing regulations.

(With inputs from Reuters, AP via PTI.)

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.