- Nadia Sampurno
Indonesia Bans Pre-Marital Sex: Increasing moves towards a more conservative society
Figure 1: Getty Images
This December, Indonesia’s parliament passed a new law banning sex outside marriage. This law comes as a part of a wider set of legislation in the new criminal code that was set out at the beginning of this month. This new criminal code arose from the need to review the current legal system established by the Dutch. It has not been changed since its implementation. The new code, along with the ban on pre-marital sex, marks a clear move towards conservatism
with laws also condoning anyone who insults the president or expresses views counter to the national ideology. How should Indonesia handle their traditional values in a world that is becoming increasingly more open and modern?
Indonesia has a complex and often controversial set of laws governing sexual behaviour and relationships. While the country is predominantly Muslim and has a reputation for being conservative, the legal framework surrounding sex and sexuality is diverse and influenced by a variety of cultural and religious traditions. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-majority country, with about 87% of the population identifying as Muslim, this has a significant influence on the country's legal system. However, Indonesia is also a diverse country with a large number of religious minorities, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians. Despite Islam being the main religion of the country, this diversity is what should be reflected in the country's legal system, the implementation of the new legal system restricts and sets out to punish anyone that does not follow this inherently Islamic belief.
There is a growing concern that these new laws may have a negative impact on the country’s tourism sector. The laws put in place will also be applicable to tourists and visitors to Indonesia, the island of Bali for example is highly dependent on tourism as a main source of income and contributes greatly to the Indonesia’s economy with a high of 6.28 million people
visiting the island in 2019. The laws have yet to be implemented as of now but there is a real possibility that this will deter tourists from visiting if punishment as harsh as jail time are put in place.
It should be noted though that this new development in Indonesia’s law is not the only law taken with the country’s religious framework in mind. Homosexuality is not specifically mentioned in Indonesia's penal code, but it is often punished under laws that criminalize "immoral behaviour." In some parts of the country, Islamic sharia law is used to justify the criminalization of homosexuality, although it is not codified in the national legal system. In 2017, the Indonesian government moved to ban gay dating apps and websites, citing concerns about the spread of HIV/AIDS and the "protection of children and teenagers." The move was widely criticised by human rights groups, who argued that it violated the rights of LGBT people in Indonesia.
With Indonesia making these increased moves towards conservatism, it brings up a multitude of issues and questions. How should a country balance religious beliefs with a world that is modernising? Is Indonesian democracy dead? How can a country with dreams of having more of a global political standing make such controversial decisions?