As part of a series of reforms that critics claim endanger human rights and liberties in the Southeast Asian nation, Indonesian lawmakers passed a comprehensive new penal code on Tuesday that criminalizes sex that occurs outside of marriage.
Cohabitation before marriage and apostasy are prohibited by the new code, which also applies to international residents and visitors. It also imposes penalties for insulting the president or expressing opinions that are incompatible with the dominant ideology.
The legislative commission in charge of updating the colonial-era code was led by MP Bambang Wuryanto. “All have agreed to ratify the (proposed amendments) into law,” he said. “The ancient code is of Dutch ancestry… it has lost its significance.
Blasphemy, which is already a criminal in Indonesia, now carries a potential five-year prison sentence.
Rights organizations and detractors claimed that the new law would severely restrict human rights and freedoms in the nation of more than 270 million Muslims and “disproportionately damage women.”
An earlier version of the code was supposed to be adopted in 2019, but it was delayed due to widespread opposition.
Andreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Indonesia, cautioned that the regulations were vulnerable to abuse.
The risk of oppressive laws, according to him, is not that they would be enforced broadly but rather that they will open up opportunities for selective enforcement.
Harsono warned that “non-believers could be punished and jailed” and referred to the new legislation as “a setback for already diminishing religious freedom in Indonesia.”