Yesterday, Indonesia’s parliament passed a major revision to the country’s criminal code (RKUHP). The sweeping changes come with serious concerns about their impact on freedom of speech and other rights, but almost every international media outlet has framed its coverage around the criminalization of extra-marital sex, with many focusing on the threat that foreign tourists in Bali will face for boinking outside the bounds of holy matrimony.
While there are many things to be extremely worried about when it comes to the new criminal code, tourists getting tossed in jail for getting it on is not one of them.
Adultery is a crime punishable by up to one year in prison under the new criminal code and it does indeed apply to foreigners as well. But the law stipulates that only immediate family members (spouse, parents, or children) who may be negatively impacted by adultery or sex outside marriage, can report adulterers for the crime.
So the only scenario in which two unmarried tourists could fall afoul of the law is if they brought their families along with them and one of their family members decided to report them to the Indonesian police.
Another slightly more realistic but still improbable scenario would be a foreign tourist hooking up with an Indonesian and their direct family reporting them.
The new criminal code also makes cohabitation a crime punishable by up to six months in prison. But again, only direct family, who may be negatively impacted by one’s cohabitation, can report the offender for this crime.
While some politicians wanted RKUHP to specifically make homosexual acts illegal, the final version of the bill does not include such laws. However, there are concerns that the prohibitions on adultery and cohabitation could be used as tools to prosecute the already persecuted members of the LGBTQ+ community in Indonesia. Even before RKUHP, arbitrary enforcement of other pieces of legislation that police morality, like the Anti-Pornography Law, have been used to criminalize members of the community.
It will still take 2-3 years before the new criminal code is enacted, and it will likely face numerous court challenges before then, which could lead to the repeal or alteration of certain laws.
Despite the risk to tourists being negligible, it seems likely that it will have an immediate, negative impact on the tourism industry. Bali travel groups on social media are already buzzing with angry comments about future trips being canceled, which could cause a major setback for the island’s post-covid economic recovery.
The perception that the so-called ‘Bali boink ban’ is in effect is clearly out there, as evidenced by this recent headline from Australian satirical news outlet Beetota Advocate: