Sun | Feb 5, 2023

Parliament votes to ban sex outside of marriage

Published:Wednesday | December 7, 2022 | 12:07 AM
Activists stage a rally against Indonesia’s new criminal law in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday.
Activists stage a rally against Indonesia’s new criminal law in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday.


Indonesia’s Parliament unanimously voted on Tuesday to ban sex outside of marriage and insulting the president and state institutions.

Once in force, the bans will affect foreign visitors as well as citizens. They’re part of an overhaul of the country’s criminal code that has been in the works for years. The new code also expands an existing blasphemy law and keeps a five-year prison term for deviations from the central tenets of Indonesia’s six recognised religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The code still needs approval from the president, and the government says it will not be fully implemented for several years.

The amended code says sex outside marriage is punishable by a year in jail and cohabitation by six months, but adultery charges must be based on police reports lodged by a spouse, parents or children.

Citizens could also face a 10-year prison term for associating with organisations that follow Marxist-Leninist ideology and a four-year sentence for spreading communism.

Rights groups criticised some of the revisions as overly broad or vague and warned that adding them to the code could penalise normal activities and threaten freedom of expression and privacy rights.

However, some advocates hailed the passage as a victory for the country’s LGBTQ community. After fierce deliberation, lawmakers eventually agreed to remove an article proposed by Islamic groups that would have made gay sex illegal.

The revised code also preserves the death penalty, despite calls from the National Commission on Human Rights and other groups to abolish capital punishment. But the new code adds a 10-year probationary period to the death penalty. If the convict behaves well during this period, their sentence will be reduced to life imprisonment or 20 years’ imprisonment.

The code maintains a previous ban on abortion, but updates it to add exceptions already provided in a 2004 Medical Practice Law, for women with life-threatening medical conditions and for rape, provided that the foetus is less than 12 weeks old.

Under Indonesian regulations, legislation passed by Parliament becomes law after being signed by the president. But even without the president’s signature, it automatically takes effect after 30 days unless the president issues a regulation to cancel it.