World news

Indonesia criminalizes sex outside marriage

In Indonesia, it’s a shock. After months of parliamentary discussions, the majority of Indonesian deputies voted on Tuesday, December 6 several legislative amendments to the Penal Code prohibiting sexual relations outside marriage and the cohabitation of unmarried couples. Project committee spokesman Albert Aries defended the amendments ahead of the vote, saying the law will protect the institution of marriage.

Angry at the announcement of this decision that she had been dreading for several days, Nayu, a young Muslim high school teacher, says to herself “upset by a new law that illustrates the conservatism and radicalization of Indonesian society and politics”. Secularism is however enshrined in its Constitution.

“There is an increasingly deep Islamization of Indonesia”

Like many human rights organizations, she speaks “of an increasingly profound Islamization of Indonesia, which was nevertheless considered the most tolerant Muslim country in the world. All of that is over.” And she adds that as a Muslim, she had never worn a headscarf or a veil but that “increasingly massive social and religious pressure has led me to wear a headscarf in the street now”.

Among the most controversial articles of the newly adopted code are the criminalization of extra-marital sexual relations, as well as the cohabitation of unmarried couples. These rules could also, according to human rights organizations, have a major impact on the LGBT community in Indonesia, where same-sex marriage is not allowed.

However, these acts can only be reported by the spouse, parents or children, which de facto limits the scope of the text. But critics of the new law have denounced it as establishing an attack on freedom of morals.

“Violent Setback”

Lawyers and civil society groups point out that such changes to the Penal Code were a “violent setback” for the third largest democracy in the world. “The state cannot manage morality. The government’s duty is not to play arbiter between conservatives and liberals in Indonesia,” said Bivitri Susanti, a lawyer at Jentera Law School in Jakarta. Also denouncing the intrusion into people’s privacy by prohibiting the cohabitation of unmarried couples.

The current Indonesian Penal Code dates back to Dutch colonial times, and its revision has been under debate for decades. According to rights groups, the new amendments underscore a growing slide towards fundamentalism in a country long hailed for its religious tolerance, with secularism enshrined in its constitution.

“We are backing down… the repressive laws should have been abolished. But the bill shows that the arguments of foreign scholars are true, that our democracy is unquestionably in decline.Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, told AFP.

Source : BBN NEWS

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