Dear tourists: No, you won’t be jailed for having sex with your unmarried partner in Bali

Photo illustration. Photo: Pexels
Photo illustration. Photo: Pexels

Yes, Indonesia this week almost passed a draconian revision to the country’s criminal code (a bill referred to in local media by the abbreviation RKUHP), that would have criminalized insulting the president and strengthened the country’s blasphemy laws, among many other controversial articles. But, had you exclusively read about RKUHP news from sources outside of Indonesia (particularly from our neighbors down under), you may only know about one particular aspect of the bill: 

Firstly, it was highly surprising that searching for the phrase “sex in Bali” on Twitter did not yield pornographic results, which just shows how huge the media and public reaction to the so-called “Bali sex ban” has been.

Secondly, there is no premarital sex ban in Bali, or anywhere else in Indonesia for that matter (except, of course, in sharia law-enforcing Aceh). Furthermore, RKUHP’s passage has been delayed indefinitely, and, even if it passes in a future legislative session, it would take at least two years for it to come into effect. 

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say RKUHP passes in its current form. Does that mean you can’t boink in Bali with your girlfriend/boyfriend? 

Well, as pointed out by lawmakers, the law contains several crucial stipulations to the articles criminalizing sex outside of marriage, the main one being that the offending party can only be reported to the police by the spouses, parents or children of those involved. So, while one could see how this law could easily affect locals, unless tourists bring their convoluted marital drama into Indonesia, it’s extremely unlikely that they would be charged with extramarital sex.

The same thing applies to cohabitation involving unmarried couples, which would be a crime if RKUHP eventually passes. Again, as clarified by an Indonesian minister, charges of criminal cohabitation can only be made if the police receive a report from either the parents or children of those involved.

As for the supposed requirement about showing a marriage certificate to check in at a hotel in Bali, as reported by Condé Nast Traveler above, we have no idea where such a sensationalized claim came from as no such stipulation exists anywhere in RKUHP. That said, sharia hotels, which often have a policy to require marriage certificates from couples, are a thing in some parts of Indonesia, but we have yet to find one in Bali.

If you require further peace of mind, know that the Bali Provincial Government has issued a statement emphasizing that RKUHP has not yet been passed and urging both tourists and tourism operators on the island to continue activities as usual. “Stay composed,” the statement read. Stay composed and boink on, we say.

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