The legislature in Indonesia unanimously approved a comprehensive new criminal code on Tuesday that criminalizes sex outside of marriage. This is part of a series of reforms that critics claim endanger the rights and freedoms in the Asian nation.
The new code, which also applies to foreign residents and tourists, bans cohabitation before marriage. It also bans apostasy, and provides punishments for insulting the president or expressing views counter to the national ideology.
“All have agreed to ratify the (draft changes) into law,” said lawmaker Bambang Wuryanto. Bambang led the parliamentary commission in charge of revising the colonial-era code. “The old code belongs to Dutch heritage…and is no longer relevant.”
Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, has experienced a rise in religious conservatism recently. In some areas of the country, such as the semi-autonomous Aceh province where alcohol and gambling are prohibited, strict Islamic regulations are already in effect. In the area, public floggings are also practiced for a variety of sins, such as adultery and homosexuality.
The revisions to the penal code have disturbed proponents of human rights who feared that they could strangle individual freedoms. They have also representatives of the travel sector who were concerned about how they might affect tourism.
The 200-page new criminal code has been under development for years. A previous draft was supposed to be approved in 2019, but thousands of demonstrators, largely students, marched to the streets to demand the government rescind it, forcing the vote to be postponed.