Australia’s DFAT weighs in on Indonesia’s shocking sex ban

Indonesia President Joko Widodo and aerial shot of Bali Kuta Beach
Indonesia President Joko Widodo and Bali's Kuta Beach. Images: BBC (left), Simon_Sees/Wikimedia Commons

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued an update on Indonesia’s shocking new laws banning sex outside of marriage, amid concern for gay tourists to Bali.

The Indonesian Parliament this week passed sweeping changes to the country’s Criminal Code. The most high-profile is a ban on sex outside of marriage, punishable with a year in jail.

Now LGBTIQ+ tourists as well as local tourism businesses are concerned about the implications and enforcement of the new laws.

The new Criminal Code comes into effect in three years time, and will also prohibit cohabitation between unmarried couples.

On Thursday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) updated its Smarttraveller advice to reflect the changes.

“Indonesian parliament has passed revisions to its criminal code, which includes penalties for cohabitation and sex outside of marriage,” an update on the Smartraveller website said.

“These revisions will not come into force for three years. Subscribe to the travel advice to stay up to date.”

The advice said Australians are subject to Indonesia’s local laws and penalties, including those that seem harsh by Australian standards.

DFAT wants ‘further clarity’ around the laws

A day earlier, a DFAT spokesperson said the department was “seeking further clarity” around the contentious laws.

“We understand these revisions will not come into force for three years,” the spokesperson said on Wednesday.

“We await further information on how the revisions will be interpreted as implementing regulations are drafted and finalised.

“DFAT continues to keep all our travel advisories under close review, including to regularly and carefully reassess the risks to Australians overseas and to provide the latest information.

“DFAT will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Indonesia’s Criminal Code ‘a dramatic rollback of human rights progress’

Indonesia’s laws banning extramarital sex and cohabitation state police can only lay charges if a report is lodged by a spouse, parents, or children.

Moreover, the laws only specify a man and a woman and don’t explicitly refer to same-sex couples.

But Amnesty International has blasted the new Criminal Code as “a dramatic rollback of human rights progress” in the Muslim-majority country.

Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said the new laws also limit free speech and freedom of assembly. Parts of the Code could also be misused to target LGBTIQ+ Indonesians, he said.

“What we’re witnessing is a significant blow to Indonesia’s hard-won progress in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms over more than two decades,” Hamid said.

“The fact that the Indonesian government and the House of Representatives agreed to pass a penal code that effectively stamps out many human rights is appalling.

“Outlawing sex outside marriage is a violation to the right to privacy protected under international law.

“Such ‘morality’ provisions could even potentially be misused to criminalise victims of sexual assault or target members LGBTI [people].

“Consensual sexual relationships should not be treated as a criminal offence or a violation of ‘morality’.”

Laws criminalise promotion of contraception and abortion

The new Criminal Code also criminalises the promotion of contraception and maintains abortion is a crime, Amnesty warned.

Hamid also warned a ban on unsanctioned public demonstrations could restrict the right to peaceful assembly.

“It will practically give those in power authority to suppress opinions that they don’t like through selective enforcement,” he said.

“This can cement a climate of fear that stifles peaceful criticism and freedom of assembly.”

Amnesty International said the Indonesian government must “live up to their human rights commitments” to all Indonesians instead of “destroying hard-won human rights victories”.

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1 Comment

    9 December 2022

    No trips to Bali for me. Bugger them!

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