Indonesia’s new criminal code to allow village heads to report cohabitating couples to police 

A major revision to Indonesia’s national criminal code (RKUHP) has been heavily criticized by activists who warn that the bill contains several severely problematic articles, but, rather than removing them, legislators in the House of Representatives (DPR) apparently added even more controversial statutes to the revision before completing their discussions on the bill over the weekend.

A member of the RKUHP Special Committee, Arsul Sani, told the media yesterday that they had finished their discussion on the bill Sunday and mentioned that one of the final additions they had agreed upon was an expansion of the laws concerning adultery, including a new article making cohabitation (which the legislation defines as two people living together as man and wife outside of marriage) a criminal act that can be reported upon by third parties, including village heads, and punished by up to six months in prison.

Although some Indonesian regions have local laws against cohabitation (which are often used to persecute those suspected of pre-marital sex), the current national criminal code does not. Arsul justified criminalizing cohabitation on the grounds that it constituted a social problem that can affect the community.

“In Islam, if there is are people who continue to commit adultery, the angels will not want to visit 40 houses around it to the front, right, left and behind, so they say,” Arsul explained as quoted by Sindonews.

Indonesians who have been accused of cohabitation or adultery are sometimes made the targets of local vigilantes, and incidences of self-appointed moral police dragging people out of their homes to shame parade them in public (often while the victims have been stripped of some or all of their clothes) are not uncommon.

Related: Naked man paraded through town with his lover after youths allege the two committed adultery in E. Java

Arsul claimed that the new laws on cohabitation and adultery were actually aimed at preventing such acts of persecution as it would put such matters under the jurisdiction of authorities.

Indonesia’s current criminal code criminalizes adultery, but only allows for spouses to report their cheating partners to the police. The revised law would also allow parents and children of alleged adulterers to report their moral crimes to police.

Activists argue that the new adultery and cohabitation laws would not just be a major violation of privacy rights, it would also open the door to more vigilante acts. The country’s current criminal code does little to deter vigilantes as authorities rarely charge them with violating laws such as trespassing and assault. Further codifying morality into the criminal code could simply give the self-righteous further justification to act.

Related: Neighborhood chief sentenced to 5 years for stripping and shaming young couple wrongly accused of ‘immorality’

RKUHP contains a number of other articles that have activists alarmed, including those concerning insults towards the president and judges, the promotion of contraceptives, abortions and blasphemy.

According to Arsul, the content of the RKUHP has been decided upon but further refinements to the bill’s language, to provide greater clarity and prevent legal ambiguities, may still be made. He said the DPR is expected to vote on the bill and pass it by September 24.

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