The Indonesian government just passed a new federal criminal code that bans sex outside marriage. Could this become a problem for amorous Aussies making their annual exodus to Bali?
Australia’s biggest neighbour has been looking to revise their criminal code since declaring independence from the Netherlands in 1945: indeed, many of the laws on the books are simply inherited (or rather, were imposed by) the Dutch.
However, rather than changing their criminal code to be more progressive as one might expect, the Indonesians have gone in a completely different direction, passing sweeping changes which – among other things – have introduced a ban on sex outside of marriage.
As ABC News reports, the new criminal code penalise sex outside of marriage with up to one year in jail, prohibits cohabitation between unmarried couples and bans the promotion of contraception, black magic (bad news for Bali shamans), insulting a sitting president and vice president, state institutions or national ideology as well as expands laws relating to religious blasphemy.
These onerous new laws could end up being rather problematic for Australian tourists to Bali. In 2019, almost 2 million Australians tourists visited Indonesia, with the vast majority of them visiting Bali. Bali’s known for being a rather libertine place to visit and party – but these laws could change that.
It’s not completely straight-forward, however. Unmarried couples can only be prosecuted if they’re reported by a spouse, parents or their children… So you won’t be arrested if your mate dobs you in for getting it on with someone during your Bali boy’s trip, for example.
“[The code] would be applicable to tourists… [But] it is unlikely, in practice, to affect tourists travelling to Indonesia, provided that no such complaints are made to Indonesian police,” Professor Simon Butt, Director of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney explains.
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While it’s good sport poking fun at the prospect of Aussie tourists being prevented from getting their socks off in Bali, Indonesia’s new criminal code is no laughing matter and could have much more dire consequences for both locals and tourists – especially those from the LGBT+ community.
Hindu-majority Bali has always been considered pretty queer-friendly (especially in comparison to the rest of the Muslim-majority country), but these new laws could lead to discrimination or even prosecution of queer singles and even couples.
In particular, a new provision cracking down on “immoral acts” might extend to public affection between people of the same gender, Prof. Butt suggests.
There’s one saving grace, though: Indonesia’s new criminal code will not apply immediately, but rather will take as many as three years to transition from the old code to the new one.
So if you’ve already booked a holiday to Bali (or anywhere else in Indonesia) and you were looking to have a bit of ~fun~, you’re not completely screwed. Pun entirely intended.