The Indonesian parliament has announced it will pass a new penal code that will punish sex outside marriage with up to a year in prison as well as ban cohabitation before marriage.
Indonesia’s deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, told Reuters the code is expected to pass as soon as next week, 15th December. “We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with Indonesian values,” he said.
According to the most recent draft, which Reuters got access to, having sex outside marriage is penalized by a maximum sentence of one year in prison and can only be reported by close relatives. Unmarried people’s parents can denounce them for having sex, and cohabitation before marriage carries a six-month prison sentence. Prison for “black magic” and criminalization of abortion, excluding for rape victims, also exist in the code.
The revised law will also ban insulting the president or state institutions and expressing any views contrary to Indonesia’s state ideology, a charge that can only be reported by the president and carries a maximum penalty of three years, which has caused concerns among human rights activists.
As the new law will apply to both to Indonesian citizens and foreigners, it may affect Southeast Asia’s largest economy. “For the business sector, the implementation of this customary law shall create legal uncertainty and make investors reconsider investing in Indonesia,” said Shinta Widjaja Sukamdani, from Indonesia’s Employers’ Association (APINDO). She added that it would “do more harm than good”, particularly for businesses involved in tourism and hospitality.
Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch stated the code would be a “huge a setback to Indonesian democracy.”
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, wants to ensure that regional laws adhered to national legislation, and has discussed the revised code since decades. The current one dates back to the Dutch colonial period, in 1945 when Indonesia declared its independence. A previous draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019 but sparked nationwide protests.