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Sex outside of marriage can lead to a year in jail according to the new criminal code passed by the Indonesian parliament this week.

This news matches the trend of religious conservatism that has risen in the country.

Sex before marriage was already banned before the new law was passed but was not enforced by the country. The old law criminalized sex between a married man and someone who was not his wife, but the new legislation bans all sex outside of marriage, including between two unmarried parties.

The laws were passed with support from all political parties.

Following the announcement, the BBC reported several groups, mostly young people, were out protesting outside of the parliament in Jakarta.

What does the criminal code say?

The over 200-page legislation has taken years to draft. A previous draft was set to pass in 2019, but the vote was halted after thousands of protesters, mostly students, stormed the streets demanding the government withdraw the proposal. 

Although the measures were held, little to no changes were made from the paused 2019 code to the 2022 approved legislation. 

Under the new law, unmarried couples are banned from living together or having any sex outside of the constraints of marriage. Anyone caught violating these laws could lead to varying jail sentences of up to a year. In order to prosecute, a complaint must be filed by the children, parents, or spouse of the accused. 

Additionally, the legislation expanded on existing laws and their punishments. New defamation articles make it illegal for people to insult the president or criticize government ideology.

The blasphemy laws have increased to criminalize renouncing a religion, making it illegal to persuade someone to be a non-believer.

A disaster for human rights

The new legislation contains several restrictive clauses that will disproportionally affect women, LGBTQ people, and ethnic minorities. It will be a “huge setback for a country that has tried to portray itself as a modern Muslim democracy,” Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director, told BBC.

Morality laws have proven to disproportionally these groups. Research from Gulf states, with there are similar laws governing sex and relationships, highlighted women were targeted and punished more often.

Another Human Rights Watch Asia researcher, Andreas Harsano, is based in Jakarta. He explained to BBC that many indigenous people and Muslims in rural areas are not formally married by government standards and could be at risk of jail time. 

“These people will be theoretically breaking the law as living together could be punished up to six months in prison,” he said. 

Young people could protest toward progress

Keeping with the trend of young people protesting the restrictive laws of their countries, from the Covid-19 protests in China to the gender inequality in Iran, the Indonesian youth are not taking the legislation quietly. 

It has only been a few days since the legislation has passed but given the pressure young people around the world are putting on their governments, it stands to reason that Indonesia will be no different. 

tatiania perry

Tatiania Perry

OnlySky news editor Tatiania Perry has been a writer for Newsweek, Illinois Public Media, and NBC Universal, as well as in the non-profit sector. She holds a Masters in Journalism from the University of...