Australia updates travel advice, warns citizens of ‘possible future changes’ to Indonesia’s criminal code

File photo of the House of Parliament building in Jakarta.
File photo of the House of Parliament building in Jakarta.

The Australian government updated its official travel advice to its citizens living or visiting Indonesia today, warning them about the expected passage of Indonesia’s revised criminal code (RKUHP) and highlighting that the new law would also apply to all foreigners, including its articles criminalizing sex and cohabitation outside of marriage. 

The move comes as Indonesia’s government and House of Parliament (DPR) looks set to pass RKUHP next Tuesday. If the bill passes, a number of actions may questionably constitute a criminal act in the country for the first time. 

Australian tourists makes up a large portion of foreign tourists in Indonesia. According to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), 1.3 million Australians visited the archipelago in 2018, with almost 90% naming Bali their primary destination, constituting the fifth largest nationality group among those visiting Indonesia. 

On its Smartraveller website, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) highlighted several articles included in RKUHP, including those criminalizing sex and cohabitation outside of marriage, ‘indecent acts’ carried out in public, insulting the President, Vice President, religion, state institutions and symbols, as well as subverting Indonesia’s national ideology of Pancasila. 

In addition, DFAT also noted that in their latest travel warning that the death penalty will be retained under the revision for a number of crimes. 

(Just to be clear, none of the new articles included in RKUHP mentioned on the Smartraveller website constutes a crime punishable by the death penalty. For more information on those articles, their potential punishments, and all of the other controversies surrounding RKUHP, we have a handy explainer to get you up to speed.

However, it’s worth highlighting here that the bill has not yet passed and that the revised criminal code would only enter into force two years if it were to be ratified. 

According to a statement shared on Twitter by Australian journalist David Lipson, a spokesman from Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to Australia’s updated travel warning by saying: “In our case, we always make a thorough assessment on the merit of issuing any travel advisory, taking into consideration the state of the bilateral relations with any particular country.” 

Indonesian lawmaker Teuku Taufiqulhadi previously told Reuters that tourists in Indonesia shouldn’t be too concerned with facing jail time for engaging in extramarital sex.

“No problem, as long as people don’t know,” he is quoted as saying.

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