7 presidents later, Indonesia finally passes new criminal code. Here’s how you can stay out of trouble

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

The day has finally come. The House of Representatives (DPR) has finally passed the Bill to Revise the Criminal Code (RKUHP) after decades of Indonesians living under a penal code heavily influenced by the Dutch colonial era.

The bill, in one form or another, has been deliberated on since the time of the country’s first President Soekarno. RKUHP was passed in our 77th year as a sovereign nation and under the leadership of our seventh president in Joko Widodo.

The new criminal code will come into effect within three years of its passing, i.e. before Dec. 6, 2025. That’s more than enough time to get acquainted with some of the newest provisions so we can all stay out of trouble.

Of course, unambiguous crimes like theft, murder, and corruption (more on that later) are still outlawed. Here, we’re focusing on articles in the RKUHP that are open to wide interpretation and are most controversial for their potential encroachment into our civil liberties.

Treason

Any effort to transfer part or all of Indonesia’s sovereignty to a foreign power is a crime punishable by up to 12 years in prison, life imprisonment, or the death penalty. Meanwhile, overthrowing the government is a crime punishable by up to 12 years in prison, or 15 for the instigator of the movement.

Insulting the president

The RKUHP states that insulting the president or vice president is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. However, as we have outlined in a prior article on RKUHP, only the head of state can file a complaint against the offender, and there are exemptions put in place ostensibly to protect freedom of speech.

More on RKUHP

RKUHP: Indonesia’s proposed new criminal code has a conservative slant, but should we be worried?
The House of Parliament (DPR) looks set to overhaul the country’s colonial-era Criminal Code (KUHP) this week, and the question on everybody’s mind seems to be: will we get effed… Read more.
RKUHP: Indonesia’s proposed new criminal code has a conservative slant, but should we be worried?
The House of Parliament (DPR) looks set to overhaul the country’s colonial-era Criminal Code (KUHP) this week, and the question on everybody’s mind seems to be: will we get effed… Read more.

Insulting state symbols

Within the context of the law, “state symbols” encompass institutions like the government, parliament, police and the military, among others. Offenders may get up to 1.5 years in jail, or up to three years if one incites public unrest with their insult of state symbols. Again, only the offended party can file a complaint against the offender.

Protesting without permit

Police permit is now mandatory for protests in public. Failure to obtain one would see protesters jailed for up to six months. 

Communism

Anyone spreading or teaching Marxism, Leninism, or communism in Indonesia may face up to four years in prison. The punishment may be raised to 15 years if the teachings inspire public unrest that lead to deaths.

Fake news

via GIPHY

Anyone, including the media, who deliberately spread fake news that leads to public unrest may be jailed for up to six years and fined IDR500 million. Anyone who spreads news they suspect might be fake, which leads to public unrest, may be jailed for up to four years and fined IDR200 million. Anyone who spreads news that is not verified, which leads to public unrest, may be jailed for up to two years and fined IDR10 million.

Corruption

RKUHP actually dials down punishment for corrupt convicts. Where corruption was previously punishable by four to 20 years in prison, the jail term range under RKUHP will be two to 20 years. The minimum fine was also lowered from IDR200 million to IDR10 million.

Sex outside marriage

Adultery, or sexual intercourse not between a husband and a wife, is a crime punishable by up to one year in prison under RKUHP. Only close relatives (spouse, parents, or children), who may be negatively impacted by adultery or sex outside marriage, can report people for this crime.

via GIPHY

Cohabitation

Cohabitation is a crime punishable by up to six months in prison under RKUHP. Again, only close relatives, who may be negatively impacted by one’s cohabitation, can report the offender for this crime. 

There is concern that prohibitions on adultery and cohabitation may be used as tools to prosecute the already persecuted members of the LGBTQ+ community in Indonesia. Being a sexual or gender minority is not illegal in Indonesia, but even before RKUHP, arbitrary enforcement of other pieces of legislation that police morality, like the Anti-Pornography Law, have been used to penalize members of the community.

Contraception

People caught promoting or showing contraceptives to children may be fined IDR1 million. Healthcare, education, and family planning professionals, as well as volunteers trained in this field, are exempt from this rule.

Voodooism

via GIPHY

Those who offer false hope through black magic and supposed supernatural powers, resulting in one’s mental and/or physical suffering, may be jailed for up to 1.5 years in prison. The punishment may be increased by a third of the original sentence if the offender practices voodooism as their main source of income.

Death penalty

Death penalty remains in RKUHP, despite calls from human rights groups to abolish capital punishment in Indonesia. However, it can only be imposed alternatively with a probationary period of 10 years, meaning the death penalty sentence may be commuted down to life imprisonment or more lenient punishments if the convict behaves well during that period.

Blasphemy

Punishments for blasphemy have been expanded in RKUHP. In general, religious blasphemy against any of the six recognized religions in Indonesia is punishable by up to three years in prison, or five years if carried out online.

Those who promote atheism or any beliefs outside of Indonesia’s recognized religions may be jailed for up to two years. Those who use violence to achieve this means may be jailed for up to four years.

In addition, anyone who disrupts a religious service or meeting held by adherents of the six recognized faiths may face up to five years in prison.

What’s next?

Like we mentioned, the new criminal code will come into effect within three years from now. That should also allow for ample time for the filing of constitutional challenges against RKUHP, as some organizations are already planning on doing.

Otherwise, we’ll just have to do our best to live with this imperfect law and hope for gradual change for the better in the generations to come.



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