Indonesians protest jail sentence for sex outside marriage (updated)

JAKARTA, 6 Dec 2022:

The Indonesian parliament today approved sweeping criminal code reforms, which include criminalising sex outside marriage, sparking protect freedom cries in the Muslim-majority country.

Activists and rights defenders have warned that the new code, which also punishes insulting the president, threatened human rights in the country with the largest Muslim population.

The reforms can be challenged in the constitutional court within two years from the date of parliamentary nod, said Alif Nurwidiastomi from the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation.

But Nurwidiastomi said it was hogwash because of the nexus between the government and the judiciary. He said the government would ultimately implement the reforms even if challenged in court.

The reform, in the pipeline for decades, has triggered protests in the country known for its liberal tradition. A statement by 100 non-profit groups who took part in the protests said the reform was “anti-democratic” and perpetuated corruption.

The new code “silence(s) freedom of the press, hinder(s) academic freedom, regulate(s) the private sphere of society, discriminate(s) against women and marginalised groups, and threaten(s) the existence of indigenous peoples,” the statement said.

The reform had made 632 changes criminal code, of which the most criticised articles include those criminalising extramarital sexual relations with punishments of up to one year in prison.

Cohabitation outside marriage can result in up to six months of imprisonment.

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

Public opinions or committing “hostile acts” against the religions professed in Indonesia entail up to five years in prison.

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 reform also includes a ban on insulting the national flag and anthem and criticising the founding ideology of Indonesia, known as Pancasila, described as a form of religious socialism likely to be used against Islamist groups.

The change in the code is considered a controversial juggling act by the reformist president Joko Widodo to satisfy the growing conservative sector while limiting the field of operation of the more radical groups.

However, human rights activists and analysts remain critical of many provisions, believing that they could undermine the rights of communities including the LGBTI, freedom of expression, and dissent in a country where the memory of dictator Suharto – overthrown in 1998 – remains fresh.

JAKARTA, 5 Dec 2022:

A crowd gathered in front of the Indonesian Parliament in the capital city of Jakarta today to protest against the imminent approval of the country’s penal code, which, among other measures, will make sex outside marriage punishable with imprisonment.

The reform in the penal code, which also seeks to criminalise cohabitation of couples outside marriage, is set to be approved tomorrow (Tuesday).

“Reject the ratification of the penal code reform,” read a banner displayed outside the Parliament in Jakarta, where a wide majority is expected to ratify Indonesia’s most extensive penal code reforms since its independence from the Netherlands in 1945.

A reform that contains “anti-democratic articles, perpetuate corruption in Indonesia, silence freedom of the press, hinder academic freedom, regulate the private sphere of society, discriminate against women and marginalised groups, threatening the existence of indigenous peoples,” according to a statement issued by 100 nonprofits taking part in the protests.

There are a total 632 changes in the reform, of which the most criticised articles include those criminalising extramarital sexual relations with punishments of up to one year in prison, and the ban on cohabitation outside marriage, which can result in up to sex months of imprisonment.

Another contentious change is the criminalising the contempt of government institutions, which can make criticism of officials such as the president, punishable with prison terms.

The reform also includes a ban on insulting the national flag and anthem and criticising the founding ideology of Indonesia, known as Pancasila, which was originally described as a form of religious socialism, something that could theoretically be used against most Islamist groups.

The impending approval of the reforms is considered to be a controversial juggling act by the reformist President Joko Widodo to satisfy the growing conservative sector, while limiting the field of operation of the more radical groups.

However, human rights activists and analysts remain critical of many provisions, believing that it could undermine the rights of communities including the LGBTI, freedom of expression, and dissent in a country where the memory of dictator Suharto – overthrown in 1998 – remains fresh.

For decades, Indonesia has been trying to reform its penal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era. In 2006, it removed parts that had been used by Suharto to persecute critics during his 32 years in power.

– EFE