On Tuesday (December 6), Indonesia’s parliament passed a new penal code banning sex outside of marriage.
Passed with the support of all political parties, it will apply to Indonesians and tourists alike and carry a penalty of up to one year in prison. New laws also prohibit unmarried couples from living together.
Currently, adultery, but not extramarital sex, is banned in the country, and the new law won’t come into force for three years.
But there are concerns about what this development means for tourists.
The deputy head of Indonesia’s Tourism Authority, Maulana Yusran, told Reuters that the new regulations are “entirely counterproductive” if the country is trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We deeply regret that the government has closed its eyes. We have already raised our concerns with the Ministry of Tourism about how harmful this law is.”
How will the sex ban affect tourists in Indonesia?
Destinations like Bali are popular with visitors from all over the world, but particularly so with Australians. More than a million people visit Indonesia from Australia each year.
The country’s newspapers have dubbed the new legislation the “Bali bonk ban”.
“I don’t really think it’s a good idea, but it’s not the first time something like this has happened,” Jeremy Finch, an Australian tourist in Bali, told AFP. “I think in 2019 they tried to introduce it and it failed.”
Australia has said it is seeking “further clarification” on how the ban will affect tourists Balinese and other parts of the country.
A US State Department spokesman also said in a news conference that the country is concerned about how the changes could affect citizens visiting and living in Indonesia.
But authorities have insisted foreign visitors will not be affected as there are limits on who can report anyone breaking new “moral” laws. It is limited to individuals such as parents, spouses or children of suspected criminals.
But since it’s not due to come into force for another three years, it’s unclear exactly what impact the ban on premarital sex might have on tourists.
Aside from discouraging travelers from visiting Indonesia, it can also stop international investment in the country tourism industry.
“The criminalization of individuals’ personal choices would play a large role in the decision matrix of many companies deciding whether to invest in Indonesia,” warned US Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim.
How have human rights organizations reacted to the ban?
human rights Organizations have criticized Indonesia’s new penal code, which also includes restrictions on protests and bans criticism of the country’s president.
Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid described it as “appalling” and a “considerable blow” to the country’s progress on human rights.
“Prohibiting sex outside of marriage is a violation of the right to privacy protected by international law,” he said.
“Moral” provisions could even be misused to criminalize victims of sexual assault or members of the LGBTI community, he added. While homosexuality is not illegal in most parts of Indonesia, same-sex marriage is not recognized.
“Consensual sexual relations should not be treated as a criminal offense or an offense against ‘morality’.”