Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday voted for new laws to ban sex outside of marriage. The new measure also bans people from insulting the president and government.
Once in force, the bans will affect foreign visitors as well as citizens. But a government official said the new laws will not be in place for several years.
- The amended law says sex outside marriage is punishable by a year in jail. And unmarried couples living together will face six months in prison.
- The law keeps a previous ban on abortion, a medical procedure to end a pregnancy. But the changes add exceptions already provided in a 2004 Medical Practice Law, for women with life-threatening medical conditions and rape, provided that the fetus is less than 12 weeks old.
- Citizens could also face 10 years in prison for having links to Marxist-Leninist organizations and 4 years for spreading communism.
- The law still permits the death penalty, even though some groups pushed for its removal.
- It restores a ban on insulting a sitting president, vice president, as well as government or national ideology. Insults to a sitting president could lead up to three years in jail.
- The change expands an existing blasphemy law. It gives a five-year prison term for those who move away from Indonesia’s six approved religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
Civil rights organizations criticized the new laws as overly broad and unclear. They said they will criminalize normal activities and threaten freedom of expression and privacy rights.
Groups that support the rights of LGBTQ people in Indonesia were pleased with one change in the new law: sex between gay people is not included in the list of illegal acts.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo is expected to sign the new laws. Even if he does not sign it, they will take effect after 30 days.
But Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights for Indonesia Edward Hiariej said the law will not be enforced for up to three years. He noted that enforcement measures “must be worked out” and could not be done in one year.
Indonesia’s leaders tried to update the nation’s criminal law in 2019. But Widodo asked lawmakers to delay the vote after nationwide protests. The protesters said the laws were discriminatory and the process for making the changes was unclear.
The government called Tuesday’s vote for the new law “a historic step” in Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands. The country has been independent since 1945 but Dutch administrators wrote many of the nation’s laws.
Andreas Harsono is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. He said changes to the new Indonesian laws are dangerous. He said, “These laws let police extort bribes, let officials jail political foes.”
Harsono added that places like Bali and Jakarta will also risk losing foreign visitors because of the new laws.
I’m Faith Pirlo.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.
Words in This Story
penalty –n. a punishment
ideology –n. the set of beliefs of a group
blasphemy –n. something said or done that is disrespectful toward God
LGBTQ –n. used to mean Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer
extort –v. to get something (such as money) through a use of force or threats
bribe –n. to ask someone to do an illegal or unethical act in exchange for money or a favir
foe –n. an opponent or rival
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