Crime & Justice

Protests erupt in Jakarta over reform to criminalize sex outside marriage

Jakarta, Aug 5 (EFE).- A crowd gathered in front of the Indonesian Parliament in the capital city of Jakarta on Monday to protest against the imminent approval of the country’s penal code, which, among other measures, will make sex outside marriage punishable with imprisonment.

The reform in the penal code, which also seeks to criminalize cohabitation of couples outside marriage, is set to be approved on Tuesday.

“Reject the ratification of the penal code reform,” read a banner displayed outside the Parliament in Jakarta, where a wide majority is expected to ratify Indonesia’s most extensive penal code reforms since its independence from the Netherlands in 1945.

A reform that contains “anti-democratic articles, perpetuate corruption in Indonesia, silence freedom of the press, hinder academic freedom, regulate the private sphere of society, discriminate against women and marginalized groups, threatening the existence of indigenous peoples,” according to a statement issued by 100 nonprofits taking part in the protests.

There are a total 632 changes in the reform, of which the most criticized articles include those criminalizing extramarital sexual relations with punishments of up to one year in prison, and the ban on cohabitation outside marriage, which can result in up to sex months of imprisonment.

Another contentious change is the criminalizing the contempt of government institutions, which can make criticism of officials such as the president, punishable with prison terms.

The reform also includes a ban on insulting the national flag and anthem and criticizing the founding ideology of Indonesia, known as Pancasila, which was originally described as a form of religious socialism, something that could theoretically be used against most Islamist groups.

The impending approval of the reforms is considered to be a controversial juggling act by the reformist President Joko Widodo to satisfy the growing conservative sector, while limiting the field of operation of the more radical groups.

However, human rights activists and analysts remain critical of many provisions, believing that it could undermine the rights of communities including the LGBTI, freedom of expression, and dissent in a country where the memory of dictator Suharto – overthrown in 1998 – remains fresh.

For decades, Indonesia has been trying to reform its penal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era. In 2006, it removed parts that had been used by Suharto to persecute critics during his 32 years in power. EFE


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