Lawmakers in Indonesia unanimously passed a law on Tuesday banning sex outside of marriage. The offense carries a potential punishment of one year in prison. 

The new code also applies to foreign residents and tourists, and bans cohabitation before marriage, along with several other mandates. Additionally, the 200-page legislative document bans apostasy and outlines punishments for insulting the president or expressing views counter to the national ideology, as reported by CNN.

“All have agreed to ratify the (draft changes) into law,” said lawmaker Bambang Wuryanto, who led the parliamentary commission in charge of revising the colonial-era code. “The old code belongs to Dutch heritage … and is no longer relevant.”

Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation of 270 million, has experienced a rise in religious conservatism in recent years. In parts of the country, strict Islamic laws are already enforced, including a ban on alcohol and gambling. Homosexuality and adultery are two of a range of “offenses” that can result in public flogging.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said that creating a criminal code that “accommodates all interests” is not easy for a multicultural and multi-ethnic country such as Indonesia.

He hopes Indonesians understand that lawmakers have done everything they could to accommodate “public aspiration.”

Dissatisfied parties are invited to submit a judicial review to the constitutional court in response.

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The new criminal code is raising major concerns among human rights advocates, primarily regarding the potential stifling of personal freedoms. Human rights groups and critics warned that the new code would “disproportionately impact women” and further limit human rights and freedoms in the country.

“What we’re witnessing is a huge setback to Indonesia’s hard-won progress in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms after the 1998 revolution. This criminal code should have never been passed in the first place,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia.

What It Means For Tourists and Foreigners

Similarly, travel industry representatives are also sounding off about the code’s potential effect on tourism.

The new laws are expected to hurt businesses, especially those that regularly host and cater to foreign nationals and tourists.

Bali, for example, is a major attraction for tourists and relies heavily on the industry’s revenue. Still recovering from the pandemic, Bali stands to feel the effects of the law greater than many other regions.

Putu Winastra, chairman of the Association of the Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA) in Bali, told CNN the laws would “make foreigners think twice” about visiting Indonesia.

“From our point of view as tourism industry players, this law will be very troublesome,” said Putu, who questioned how the laws would be policed.

“Should we ask (overseas unmarried couples) if they are married or not? Do tourist couples have to prove that they are married?” he asked.

Putu said the laws could be “counterproductive” to any efforts to entice tourists back to the island.

“If these laws are really implemented later, tourists might be (subjected) to jail and this will harm tourism,” he said.

Despite the law’s restrictive nature, there are limitations on who can lodge a formal complaint. For example, the parents of children who are cohabitating before marriage have the authority to report them.

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