Bali tourism bosses in damage control over Indonesia 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

Bali tourism authorities have played down fears around the impacts on foreign travellers of Indonesia’s contentious Criminal Code outlawing sex outside marriage.

Under the new laws Indonesia passed last week, people having sex or even living together outside of marriage risk prison time or fines if reported by certain family members.

Taking effect in three years’ time, the law would punish extramarital sex with a maximum of a year in jail or a fine of 10 million rupiah ($AU944).

The bizarre laws caused widespread confusion and alarm, including among human rights advocates, LGBTIQ+ Indonesians who can’t marry and Australian travellers.

Australians are the biggest cohort of foreign travellers to Bali, with around a million of us visiting each year.

Now Bali’s tourism chief Tjokorda Bagus Pemayun has sought to play down the looming laws, claiming foreigners shouldn’t be deterred from visiting.

“Don’t worry, because based on our discussions with the various hotel and tourism associations, hotels won’t be asking for marital status [documentation],” Pemayun told Channel News Asia.

“When people arrive at a hotel, they arrive for leisure.

“They will be treated just like now [without being checked for their marital status].”

‘They will never ask you because it’s a private matter’

Last week, the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade acknowledged the new Criminal Code and was seeking clarity on impacts on Australian citizens.

Moreover, some hotel managers in Bali have furiously spoken out against the Criminal Code. The Indonesia extramarital sex ban comes as their industry recovers from the massive disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Putu Winastra, head of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies Association also told Channel News Asia “hotels will ensure guests’ privacy.”

“People who come to Bali will still feel comfortable because the hotels will ensure their privacy,” he said.

“If they arrive with their partners, the hotels will give them a room.

“I am sure the hotels will never ask for your marriage certificate. Whether you are married or not, they will never ask you because it’s a private matter.

“And I have spoken to the association of hotel general managers, they will keep people’s marital status private.”

Human Rights Watch says ‘deeply flawed’ law puts LGBT Indonesians at risk

But Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have furiously condemned Indonesia’s new laws.

The group said as well as the extramarital sex ban, Indonesia’s new Criminal Code’s 624 articles contain “disastrous” provisions that seriously violate international human rights law and standards.

“Articles in the new code violate the rights of women, religious minorities, and LGBT people, and undermine rights to freedom of speech and association,” the group warned.

Same-sex couples cannot marry in Indonesia, so this clause also effectively renders all same-sex conduct illegal, HRW said.

“The crimes of sex or cohabitation outside marriage can only be prosecuted on the complaint of the husband, wife, parents, or children of the accused,” the group explained.

“[However] it will disproportionately impact women and LGBT people. [They] are more likely to be reported by husbands for adultery or by families for relationships they disapprove of.”

Senior Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said the law contains “oppressive and vague provisions” undermining freedom of speech and association.

“[The laws] open the door to invasions of privacy and selective enforcement that will enable the police to extort bribes, lawmakers to harass political opponents, and officials to jail ordinary bloggers,” Harsono said.

“In one fell swoop, Indonesia’s human rights situation has taken a drastic turn for the worse.

“Potentially millions of people in Indonesia [will be] subject to criminal prosecution under this deeply flawed law.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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1 Comment

  1. 13 December 2022

    They will discover the cumulative effects this will have on their economy in the long term.
    I no longer feel safe travelling to Indonesia with my husband.

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