Indonesia is on track to outlaw sex and cohabitation outside of marriage with penalties of up to a year in prison, according to government officials.
The new criminal code, which would apply to both citizens and foreigners, is expected to pass on Dec. 15 or as early as this week, the officials told Reuters.
Under the law, those who have sex before marriage may be punished with up to a year in prison, while those who live together out of wedlock face up to six months behind bars.
According to the new laws, parents of single people who engage in sex may report their own children, while complaints of adultery may only be filed by a husband or a wife.
The legislation has reportedly been decades in the making. A previous draft was slated to be passed in 2019 but was met with massive protests in cities across the Muslim-majority country, according to the BBC.
The criminal code also contains provisions against insulting the president and state institutions, as well as airing views that deviate from Indonesia’s state ideology. Civil rights groups have sounded the alarm on the possibility of misinterpretation.
“There are least [sic] 88 articles containing broad provisions that could be misused and misinterpreted by both authorities and the public to criminalize those who peacefully express their opinions or exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and association,” Nurina Savitri, a campaign manager at Amnesty International Indonesia, told The Guardian. Among them is a provision that criminalizes “unsanctioned public demonstrations,” which could be used to ban peaceful assembly, she said.
Business groups have also raised concerns on the law’s potential impact on tourism and investment. Bali, for one, has consistently placed as a top destination in various listings this year.
“For the business sector, the implementation of this customary law shall create legal uncertainty and make investors re-consider investing in Indonesia,” Shinta Widjaja Sukamdani, the deputy chairperson of Indonesia's Employers' Association, told Reuters. She added that morality-related clauses would “do more harm than good.”
The new rules appear to take heed from existing legislation in certain parts of the country, such as the province of Aceh, which enforces strict Islamic law. Bivitri Susanti, a law expert from the Indonesia Jentera School of Law, called the criminal code a “huge setback” for the nation.
“The state cannot manage morality. The government's duty is not as an umpire between conservative and liberal Indonesia,” Susanti said.
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