Indonesia’s Parliament votes to ban sex outside of marriage

Activists hold up posters during a rally against Indonesia's new criminal law in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, December 6, 2022. The country's parliament passed the long-awaited and controversial revision of its penal code Tuesday that criminalises extramarital sex for citizens and visiting foreigners alike. Writings on the posters read "Reject the revised penal code" and "Revised criminal law shackles press freedom." (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s Parliament unanimously passed a long-awaited revision of the country’s penal code on Tuesday that criminalises sex outside of marriage for citizens as well as foreigners, prohibits the promotion of contraception and bans defamation of the president and state institutions.

The amended code also expands an existing blasphemy law and maintains a five-year prison term for deviations from the central tenets of Indonesia’s six recognised religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

Citizens can face a 10-year prison term for associating with organisations that follow Marxist-Leninist ideology and a four-year sentence for spreading communism.

The code maintains the previous criminalisation of abortion but adds exceptions for women with life-threatening medical conditions and for rape, provided that the foetus is less than 12 weeks old, in line with what is already provided in a 2004 Medical Practice Law.

Rights groups criticised some of the revisions as overly broad or vague and warned that adding them to the code could penalise normal activities and threaten freedom of expression and privacy rights.

However, some advocates hailed the passage as a victory for the country’s LGBTQ community. During fierce deliberation, lawmakers eventually agreed to remove an article proposed by Islamic groups that would have made gay sex illegal.

The revised code also preserves the death penalty within the criminal justice system despite calls from the National Commission on Human Rights and other groups to abolish capital punishment, as dozens of other countries have done. But under the new code, the death penalty has a probationary period. If within a period of 10 years the convict behaves well, then the death penalty will be changed to life imprisonment or 20 years imprisonment.

Under Indonesian regulations, legislation passed by Parliament becomes law after being signed by the president. But even without the president’s signature, it automatically takes effect after 30 days unless the president issues a regulation to cancel it.

President Joko Widodo is widely expected to sign the revised code in light of its extended approval process in Parliament. But the law is likely to gradually take effect over a period of up to three years, according to Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights Edward Hiariej.

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