Indonesian lawmakers agree to criminalize sex outside of marriage, but with a major provision…

Photo Illustration
Photo Illustration

Many in Indonesia have been concerned about a conservative new revision to the country’s criminal code (RKUHP) that’s currently under discussion by the House of Representatives (DPR). Yesterday evening, lawmakers from the (DPR) and the government agreed to some controversial changes to the law that will make all sex outside of marriage, as well as cohabitation of non-married couples, potentially illegal.

“Potentially” is the key word here, however, as lawmakers have moderated the new revisions by including clauses that only allow for spouses, parents, or children of the suspects to report those crimes to the police.

“So, not everyone can file criminal reports. Paragraph 2 affirms that the only complainants can be a husband, wife, parents or children, it has been agreed,” said RKUHP committee chairperson Benny K. Harman yesterday during a meeting of the drafting and synchronization teams between the government and the DPR as quoted by Kompas.

Lawmakers said this provision was to prevent members of the general public from persecuting individuals using the new laws, something human rights activists had been especially worried about given Indonesia’s already endemic problems with moral vigilantism.

Adultery, in the sense of a married person cheating on their spouse, has actually long been illegal in Indonesia but only spouses were legally allowed to report it to the police.

Discussion about RKUHP first entered the spotlight last month amid another moral panic over LGBT rights, with the majority of political parties saying they would support amending the criminal code to make homosexual acts illegal (rather than risk looking weak on moral issues ahead of this year’s regional elections).

Not long after, human rights activists and the media who had seen a copy of the draft text alerted the public to the fact that the revised code targeted not only homosexuality but all sex outside of marriage. It also contains provisions that would make insulting the president a crime punishable by up to 5 years in jail as well as articles that could undermine corruption  investigations.

Opposition to these controversial revisions formed quickly online, with a Change.org petition asking the DPR to reject RKUHP having already garnered 50,000 signatures.

While the agreed upon paragraphs regarding adultery and cohabitation still represent a serious step backwards for individual rights and freedoms in Indonesia, the stipulation that only spouses, parents or children can report the crimes does mitigate the damage they can do. If we were being optimistic, we’d say it represents the DPR’s desire to take a more moderate approach than the one demanded by religious fundamentalists.

As for the revision regarding the criminalization of homosexuality, that is still pending discussion by the RKUHP committee. There are two alternative versions of the proposed revision, including a more moderate version that would only criminalize homosexual acts with minors or in public.


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