Bali won’t harass tourists despite new illicit sex law

DENPASAR, 12 Dec 2022:

Indonesia’s Bali island promised to protect the “privacy” of tourists after the approval of a reform of the country’s penal code that punishes extramarital sexual relations with up to a year in prison, among other measures.

“Visitors who visit or live in Bali would not need to worry with regard to the entry into force of the Indonesian Criminal Code,” Bali’s governor Wayan Koster said in a statement issued late yesterday.

“The provisions regulated in the new Indonesian Criminal Code…would provide a better guarantee of everyone’s privacy and comfortableness.”

The governor assured “there will be no checking on marital status upon check-in at any tourist accommodations, such as hotels, villas, apartments, guest houses, lodges and spas; nor inspection or sweeping on marital status by public officials or community groups.”

The confidentiality of a visitor’s personal data during their stay in tourism accommodations would be guaranteed, he said.

Wayan Koster’s remarks respond to criticism from within the country and abroad after Indonesia’s parliament last Tuesday approved sweeping criminal code reforms, which include criminalising sex outside marriage.

The Indonesian government has tried to downplay the impact of the reform, which also applies to foreign residents in Indonesia and tourists.

Last week, Indonesian minister of law and human rights Yasonna Laoly said people would not prosecuted for extramarital sex without a complaint by family members – such as parents, spouses and children.

Apostasy is also a crime as the new code expands existing anti-blasphemy laws.

Another contentious change is criminalising the contempt of government institutions, which provides a maximum of three years in prison for criticising officials like the president and the vice president.

The reforms must now be signed by president Joko Widodo, which is expected to occur within a period of 30 days.

The new laws will come into effect over a three-year period – during which they can be challenged in the constitutional court.

The UN has urged the country to stop the process while human rights organisations fear that reform will halt the opening-up process the archipelago embarked on decades ago.

Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population, had established a liberal social environment after the fall of authoritarian leader Suharto in 1998.

However, in recent years, it has seen a rise in religious conservatism.