JAKARTA: Indonesia´s parliament approved legislation on Tuesday that would outlaw sex outside marriage in a move critics said was a huge setback to rights in the world´s most populous Muslim country.
After it was endorsed by all nine parties in a sweeping overhaul of the criminal code, deputy house speaker Sufmi Dasco Ahmad banged the gavel to signal the text was approved and shouted “legal”.
A revision of Indonesia´s criminal code, which stretches back to the Dutch colonial era, had been debated for decades. Rights groups protested against the amendments, denouncing them as a crackdown on civil liberties and political freedoms as well as a shift towards fundamentalism in Muslim-majority Indonesia, where the constitution recognises five religions alongside Islam.
“We have tried our best to accommodate the important issues and different opinions which were debated,” Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly told parliament. “However, it is time for us to make a historical decision on the penal code amendment and to leave the colonial criminal code we inherited behind.”
The article criminalising sex outside marriage has been criticised by Indonesian business organisations as detrimental to tourism, though authorities insist foreigners travelling to Bali would not be affected. The new code, which still needs to be approved by President Joko Widodo, will come into force after three years.
Some of the most controversial articles criminalise extra-marital sex, as well as the cohabitation of unmarried couples. According to the text seen by AFP, sex outside of marriage will be punished with one year in prison while unmarried people living together could face six months in jail.
Albert Aries from the Law and Human Rights Ministry defended the amendments before the vote and said the law would protect marriage institutions. Sex outside marriage could only be reported by a spouse, parents or children, drastically limiting the scope of the amendment, he said.