Indonesia’s parliament has approved a new criminal code that bans sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail.
The new criminal code, which was approved unanimously by parliament on Tuesday, December 6, 2022, replaces a framework that had been in use since independence in 1946 and was a mix of Dutch law, customary law known as hukum adat, and modern Indonesian law.
The new code, which will apply to Indonesians and foreigners alike, also prohibit 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 new code must still be signed by the president, according to Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights Edward Hiariej. It will also not apply immediately, with the transition from the old code to the new one expected to take a maximum of three years.
A copy of the new code seen by the Associated Press showed that the charge of insult to a sitting president carries a prison term of as long as three years.
Hiariej said the government provided “the strictest possible explanation that distinguishes between insults and criticism.”
Sex before marriage was not illegal in Indonesia before the code was passed, although adultery was.
Under the new law, parents or children will be able to report unmarried couples to the police if they suspect them of having sex — something that critics have said is a move towards moral policing and could also be used to target members of the LGBTQ community.
Both sex before marriage and adultery will be punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine under the code.
Cohabitation will be punishable by six months in prison or a fine, although only if reported to the police by parents, children, or a spouse.
Rights groups say the proposals underscore the increasing conservatism of a country long hailed for its religious tolerance, with secularism enshrined in its constitution.
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.
“We deeply regret the government have closed their eyes. We have already expressed our concern to the ministry of tourism about how harmful this law is,” he said.
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