By – The parliament of Indonesia on Tuesday approved a new criminal code that bans premarital sex and sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail.
The new code, which will apply to Indonesians and foreigners alike, also prohibits cohabitation between unmarried couples.
It will also ban insulting the president or state institutions, spreading views counter to the state ideology and staging protests without notification.
The laws were passed with support from all political parties.
However, the code will not come into effect for three years to allow for implementing regulations to be drafted.
Currently, Indonesia bans adultery but not premarital sex.
Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, said the new code was “totally counter-productive” at a time when the economy and tourism were starting to recover from the pandemic.
Foreign arrivals in the holiday destination of Bali are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels of six million by 2025, the tourism association has said previously.
Indonesia is also trying to attract more so-called “digital nomads” to its tropical shores by offering a more flexible visa.
Speaking at an investment summit, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim said the news could result in less foreign investment, tourism and travel to the Southeast Asian nation.
Albert Aries, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s justice ministry, said the new laws regulating morality were limited by who could report them, such as a parent, spouse or child of suspected offenders. He said:
The aim is to protect the institution of marriage and Indonesian values, while at the same time being able to protect the privacy of the community and also negate the rights of the public or other third parties to report this matter or ‘playing judge’ on behalf of morality.
These laws are part of a raft of legal changes that critics say undermine civil liberties in the world’s third-largest democracy. Other laws include bans on black magic.
Responding to the criticism, Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly told parliament:
It’s not easy for a multicultural and multi-ethnic country to make a criminal code that can accommodate all interests.
Legal experts say that an article in the code on customary law could reinforce discriminatory and sharia-inspired bylaws at a local level, and pose a particular threat to LGBT people.
The public response to the new code has been muted so far, with only small protests held in the capital, Jakarta, on Monday on Tuesday.