According to officials, Indonesia’s parliament is expected to pass a new criminal code this month that will punish people having premarital sex with up to a year in prison.
The legislative overhaul will also make it illegal to insult the president or state institutions, as well as to express any views contrary to Indonesia’s state ideology. Cohabitation prior to marriage is also prohibited.
The new criminal code, which has been in the works for decades, is expected to be passed on December 15, according to Indonesia’s deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej.
“We’re proud to have a criminal code that reflects Indonesian values,” he said in an interview with Reuters.
According to Bambang Wuryanto, a lawmaker involved in the draft, the new code could be passed as soon as next week.
If passed, the code would apply to both Indonesian citizens and foreigners, with business groups concerned about the impact the rules might have on Indonesia’s image as a vacation and investment destination.
Limiting Civil Liberties in Indonesia
Some Islamic groups support the draft in a country where conservatism is on the rise, but opponents argue that it undoes liberal reforms enacted following the fall of authoritarian leader Suharto in 1998.
A previous draft of the code was scheduled to be approved in 2019, but it sparked widespread opposition. Tens of thousands of people protested at the time against a slew of new laws, particularly those aimed at regulating morality and free speech, which they claimed would limit civil liberties.
Critics claim that little has changed in the code since then, despite the fact that the government has held public consultations across the country in recent months to provide information about the changes.
Among the changes is a provision that allows the death penalty to be commuted to life imprisonment after 10 years of good behaviour.
With the exception of rape victims, the criminalization of abortion and imprisonment for “black magic” remain in the code.
According to the most recent draft, seen by Reuters on Nov. 24, sex outside marriage, which can only be reported by certain parties such as close relatives, carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.
Insulting the president, a charge that can only be brought by the president, carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Indonesia’s Government Anti-LGBT
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has hundreds of local laws discriminating against women, religious minorities, and LGBT people.
Just weeks after Indonesia presided over a successful Group of Twenty (G20) meeting, which saw its position on the global stage elevated, business leaders say the draft code sends the wrong message about Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
“The implementation of this customary law will create legal uncertainty for the business sector and cause investors to reconsider investing in Indonesia,” said Shinta Widjaja Sukamdani, deputy chairperson of Indonesia’s Employers’ Association (APINDO).
Morality clauses, she added, would “do more harm than good,” particularly for businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
The changes to the code would be a “huge setback to Indonesian democracy,” according to Human Rights Watch’s Andreas Harsono.
The deputy justice minister dismissed the criticism, claiming that the final draft would ensure that regional laws adhered to national legislation and that the new code would not jeopardize democratic freedoms.
Since Indonesia declared independence from the Dutch in 1945, a revised version of the criminal code has been discussed.