Indonesian lawmakers passed a sweeping new criminal code on Tuesday that criminalizes sex outside marriage, as part of a tranche of changes that critics say threaten human rights and freedoms in the Southeast Asian country.
The new code, which also applies to foreign residents and tourists, bans cohabitation before marriage, apostasy, and provides punishments for insulting the president or expressing views counter to the national ideology.
“All have agreed to ratify the (draft changes) into law,” said lawmaker Bambang Wuryanto, who led the parliamentary commission in charge of revising the colonial-era code. “The old code belongs to Dutch heritage … and is no longer relevant.”
The crime of blasphemy, already on Indonesia’s books, now carries a possible five-year prison term.
Rights groups and critics warned that the new code will “disproportionately impact women” and further curtail human rights and freedoms in the Muslim-majority country of more than 270 million people.
A previous draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019 but was postponed after nationwide protests.
Human Rights Watch Indonesia Researcher Andreas Harsono warned the laws were open to exploitation.
“The danger of oppressive laws is not that they’ll be broadly applied, it’s that they provide avenue for selective enforcement,” he said.
Harsono called the new laws “a setback for already declining religious freedom in Indonesia,” warning that “non-believers could be prosecuted and jailed.”
This is a developing story. More to come.