Hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia have protested the new penal code set to be brought in by the government which would outlaw sex outside of marriage and would ban same-sex relationships.
Despite being the world’s largest Muslim majority country, Indonesia has often been viewed as open, tolerant and liberal. However, new criminal reforms brought in to replace the previous Dutch colonial-era penal collection of laws are set to bring a stop to such depictions.
A divisive draft penal code is set to be passed in Indonesia in the coming weeks that would criminalise consensual extramarital sex which, in turn, would ban same-sex relationships. The new penal code will also introduce punishments for insulting the president, having an unauthorised abortion, and for unmarried couples living together as husband and wife.
Prosecutions can continue if a village chief records a complaint with the police and the parents or children of the accused do not object to such a claim. Family members can also lodge complaints to the police.
The country’s Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasonna Loaly, has attempted to justify the reforms by stating that the new code is more in line with how modern Indonesians live and feel.
Human rights groups and justice experts have united against the reforms: Tim Lindsey from the University of Melbourne called the moves ‘extremely regressive.’ Moreover, Andreas Harsono from the Human Rights Watch stated that the new code was ‘disastrous’ for ‘all Indonesians.’
The new code could have wide-ranging effects on the millions of tourists who visit such Indonesian islands as Bali and Java each year. 6 million tourists visited Bali last year. As of yet, it is unclear how tourists will be affected by the reforms, but Aaron Connelly of the International Institute for Strategic Studies warned that “foreigners are very likely to get caught up in this.”
Over 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for intervention from President Joko Widodo to stop the passing of the draft penal code.
If the bill does pass successfully then it will take over two years to come into force.