On Tuesday, thousands of students across Indonesia protested against a bill that criminalises extra-marital sex and gay sex, even as lawmakers met to decide the fate of the highly controversial criminal code which has polarised Indonesians.
The proposed bill was supposed to be discussed on Tuesday but President Joko Widodo has now postponed it to Friday, in order to give lawmakers more time to ponder over the new laws.
But what is it about the new law that has led to such widespread outrage?
According to reports, these are the major highlights of the proposed bill:
What does the law include?
Pre-marital sex, or sex before marriage, would be considered a criminal offence and those found guilty would be eligible for a prison sentence up to one year.
- Insulting or saying derogatory things about the president, religion or even the national flag or anthem would be considered illegal.
- Abortion, outside of rape and medical emergencies, will be illegal and offenders would be eligible for a four year prison term.
- A prison term for black magic would also be introduced.
- Living together out of wedlock would also be punishable by a six month prison term.
- There is also a provision in the proposed bill which bans broadcasting or promotion of contraception methods to minors.
Why are Indonesians protesting?
Stone pelting. Water cannons. Tear gas. Tuesday's protests took an ugly turn in Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia as students took to the streets to raise their against a voice that they deemed unfair. Some students even climbed up the gates of the Parliament and demanded to speak to parliament speaker Bambang Soesatyo."My crotch doesn't belong to the government," one of the banners read.
As a Twitter user wrote, this criminal code is a breach of basic human rights, freedom of speech, right to health care, abortion rights and so on. According to Human Rights Watch, the law, if passed, would be a gross violation of human rights standards.
Another major factor that must be taken into consideration is the proposed law's impact on tourism.
According to reports, over 1.2 million Australians visit Bali every year. Not every couple that visits Indonesia might be married. Some might be dating and Bali IS a popular destination for romantic getaways. Experts say that that unmarried sex between tourists would also be considered illegal, and they might be penalised. Is that not a violation of basic rights?
Given that thousands of Indonesians consider the bill an impingement of their basic freedom, several online petitions have been circulated which call for solidarity
A bill that criminalizes abortion, homeless, sex before marriage, cohabitation and so on is soon to be passed in Indonesia. Please help us to stop that by signing this petition: https://t.co/pJdrr44Fe8
— suara #HidupRakyatIndonesia (@originofotonal) September 19, 2019
Some even took to social media to raise their concerns:
Indonesia is rapidly turning into Saudi Arabia. ■ “Sex before marriage would be criminalised and could result in a one-year prison term” ■ “insulting religion and the president would become illegal” https://t.co/trzpi1qOjR — Saleem Javed (@mSaleemJaved) September 24, 2019
All these new bills coming out about :
Sex before marriage
This meme's not dead yet then. pic.twitter.com/c5aEhi6pbR
https://t.co/EtbiJL7muA no abortions, ban sex b4 marriage, make insulting the president illegal... can anyone see where potus would like to take us w/ that last one? Forget "lock her up". "Off with their heads!"
— •Sue Reling (@SueReling) September 24, 2019
Dear International especially western media our protest isn't just about sex law ban, it is about democracy, freedom of speech, West Papua, indigenous land rights, health care, abortion and so on.
Stop fetishizing Indonesia's taboo on sexuality to get clicks.
— DEA (@DeaSB) September 24, 2019
These revisions are being included as part of the country's criminal code, which hasn't been updated since the Dutch Colonial era.