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Indonesia set to penalise sex outside marriage in overhaul of criminal code

Indonesia’s parliament is expected to pass a new criminal code this month that will penalise sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail, officials have confirmed.

December 2, 2022
2 December 2022

JAKARTA, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s parliament is
expected to pass a new criminal code this month that will
penalise sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one
year in jail, officials have confirmed.

The legislative overhaul will also ban insulting the
president or state institutions and expressing any views counter
to Indonesia’s state ideology. Cohabitation before marriage is
also banned.

Decades in the making, the new criminal code is expected to
be passed on Dec. 15, Indonesia’s deputy justice minister,
Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, told Reuters.

“We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with
Indonesian values,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Bambang Wuryanto, a lawmaker involved in the draft, said the
new code could be passed by as early as next week.

The code, if passed, would apply to Indonesian citizens and
foreigners alike, with business groups expressing concern about
what damage the rules might have on Indonesia’s image as a
holiday and investment destination.

The draft has the support of some Islamic groups in a
country where conservatism is on the rise, although opponents
argue that it reverses liberal reforms enacted after the 1998
fall of authoritarian leader Suharto.

A previous draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019
but sparked nationwide protests. Tens of thousands of people
demonstrated at the time against a raft of laws, especially
those seen to regulate morality and free speech, which they said
would curtail civil liberties.

Critics say say minimal changes to the code have been made
since then, although the government has in recent months held
public consultations around the country to provide information
about the changes.

Some changes that have been made include a provision that
could allow the death penalty to be commuted to life
imprisonment after 10 years of good behaviour.

The criminalisation of abortion, with the exception of rape
victims, and imprisonment for “black magic”, remain in the code.

According to the latest draft dated Nov. 24 that was seen by
Reuters, sex outside marriage, which can only be reported by
limited parties such as close relatives, carries a maximum
one-year prison sentence.

Insulting the president, a charge that can only be reported
by the president, carries a maximum of three years.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation,
has hundreds of regulations at the local level that discriminate
against women, religious minorities, and LGBT people.

Just weeks after Indonesia chaired a sucessful Group of
Twenty (G20) meeting that saw its position elevated on the
global stage, business sector representatives say the draft code
sends the wrong message about Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

“For the business sector, the implementation of this
customary law shall create legal uncertainty and make investors
re-consider investing in Indonesia,” said Shinta Widjaja
Sukamdani, the deputy chairperson of Indonesia’s Employers’
Association (APINDO).

Clauses related to morality, she added, would “do more harm
than good”, especially for businesses engaged in the tourism and
hospitality sectors.

The changes to the code would be a “huge a setback to
Indonesian democracy”, said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights
Watch.

The deputy justice minister dismissed the criticism, saying
the final version of the draft would ensure that regional laws
adhered to national legislation, and the new code would not
threaten democratic freedoms.

A revised version of the criminal code has been discussed
since Indonesia declared its independence from the Dutch in
1945.
(Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Ananda Teresia in Jakarta
and Kate Lamb in Sydney; Editing by Kate Lamb, Ed Davies, Raju
Gopalakrishnan and Michael Perry)

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