The Indonesian parliament on Tuesday has approved unanimously a new penal code that among other things will ban sex outside marriage, and make it a crime punishable by one year in prison. The new code will come into force in three years, but it is considered only the latest among the measures that according to critics are progressively eroding freedoms in the country. Indonesia has more than 275 million inhabitants and is the largest country with an Islamic majority: it was once also considered one of the most tolerant, but in recent years it has introduced increasingly repressive and discriminatory laws, especially against the LGBTQ+ community.
The new penal code will replace the one used in the country after independence from the Netherlands, which has been in force since 1946, and will apply to both Indonesian and foreign people. It includes various laws of a “moral” nature, including the one that forbids unmarried couples to have sex and live together, and the one that punishes adultery, for which one risks a year in prison. It also contains a series of articles on defamation, for example prohibiting the expression of opinions contrary to the thinking on which the Indonesian state is founded (Pancasila) and to insult the president, a crime for which you could face up to three years.
Indonesian civil rights organizations have challenged the provisions in the new code, claiming they will deprive people of their rights.
The first draft of the new penal code was presented in September 2019, but was withdrawn due to large protests by students and activists. However, Indonesia continued to apply or introduce measures considered controversial and discriminatory. Also in 2019, in December, for example, he introduced a mandatory sexual orientation test for foreign professors in some private schools. Same-sex marriages are illegal throughout the country and homosexuality is illegal in the autonomous province of Aceh, which has a strict version of the shariathe set of moral and legal principles known as “Islamic law”.