The Indonesian government has today passed the new criminal code, including reform of the laws on adultery and premarital sex.
Passing the law has drawn international attention to this long-planned change to the criminal code, much of which had been based on colonial-era Dutch laws.
In mid-2021, the House of Representatives only needed one more plenary session to approve the drafted Criminal Code Bill that was initiated 50 years ago. The previous draft included an expanded definition of adultery. In the previous Criminal Code, adultery offences were only committed by individuals who were solely or both married. If both partners were both single and considered mature, there was no offence.
Under the new laws, a person caught committing adultery can be put in prison and face fines large fines. While adultery had previously been criminalised, significantly now the complainant can be the spouse, parents, or child of either party.
A wider concern for many is the laws about cohabitation before marriage, contained in articles 411-413. Under the new criminal code, it is illegal for two unmarried people to live together in the same home. However, the only people who can make a formal complaint are the parents or children of the accused.
The sentence for violations can be imprisonment for up to six months and fines of up to Rp10 million.
While this may not directly affect couples visiting Bali and other parts of Indonesia, foreigners with Indonesian partners they are not married to could fall foul of the rules if the person’s family became disgruntled.
There are other areas that government opposition parties also find problematic and have wider repercussions. Laws about insulting the government carry penalties of up to three years in prison.
Attacking the honour and dignity of the president or vice president carries a three-year sentence while publicly broadcasting the attacks can lead to up to four years behind bars.
Demonstrations against the government will also become more difficult, needing prior permission rather than just a notification as it stands now. If the demonstration leads to community disorder, penalties are stiffer.
Blasphemy has remained a criminal act within the new laws too.
It will also become illegal to show contraception to children. This could hamper already poor education on sexual health in Indonesia.
“They are truly blind and deaf to criticism and public input. This is a sign that today’s power is really moving towards authoritarianism,” said Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Mulawarman University, Herdiansyah Hamzah.
“The regime will exercise total control over the freedom of its citizens. The Criminal Code, which contains rubber articles, will be used as a tool to silence those who are critical of power,” he continued.