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Millions of Indonesians risk jail if a new penal code criminalising consensual sex outside marriage gets passed.
Rights groups criticised the initiative as an intrusive assault on basic freedoms if the criminal code is adopted next week following parliament and the government’s go-ahead on a final draft, Reuters reported.
The Jakarta Post said among other things, the bill outlaws consensual sex between unmarried persons and forbids two unmarried people from living together as “husband and wife”.
The new penal code, which replaces a Dutch colonial-era set of laws, will also restore a ban on insulting the President that had been repealed by the Constitutional Court.
Under the new code, some offences would carry a punishment of up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to Rupiah 1-10 million (10 million is S$710 and is three months’ salary for many Indonesians).
Critics are saying the criminalisation of co-habitation is an ’emotional response to unjustified narratives about morality.”
A maximum one-year prison term can also be applied to a person who has sex with someone who is not their spouse. But a close family member has to lodge a complaint.
The code also establishes prison terms for those found to commit “obscene acts”, defined as violating norms of decency and politeness through “lust or sexuality”, whether by heterosexuals or gay people.
However, lawmakers told Reuters that the new penal code, which would replace a Dutch colonial-era set of laws, was a long overdue expression of Indonesian independence and religiosity.
“The state must protect citizens from behaviour that is contrary to the supreme precepts of God,” said Nasir Djamil, a politician from the Prosperous Justice Party. He said leaders of all religions had been consulted on the changes given that Indonesia’s founding ideology was based on the belief in God.
The authorities can proceed with prosecution if a village chief, who heads the lowest tier of government, files a complaint with police, and parents or children of the accused do not object. Parents, children and spouses can also lodge a complaint.
It is in June that members of the House of Representatives’ House Commission III overseeing human rights, security and legal affairs agreed to include several articles that aim to regulate public morality in the draft.
These articles deal with consensual sex between two unmarried people, cohabitation, adultery and rape.
The articles have also been made ‘gender neutral’ according to The Jakarta Post. This means they also criminalise LGBT sex.
The law also means gay marriages are not recognised in Indonesia.
The new laws will also apply to foreigners. However “as long as people do not know”, so tourists for example, will not face jail for extramarital sex. -/TISG