The Head of the Badung Tourism Office, I Nyoman Rudiarta, has seen reports in foreign media that tourists are cancelling their visits to Indonesia, particularly Bali because they were “afraid” they could be jailed.
The fear is due to the enactment of the Criminal Code, especially articles 415 and 416, about adultery and cohabitation.
“All existing tourists and potential tourists who want to travel to Bali; don’t worry because all tourists will still be treated as usual,” said Rudiarta to detikBali on Thursday evening, 8th December 2022.
He added that there will be no sweeping legal action against tourists as a result of the passing of the law.
“All tourists will remain safe and comfortable while enjoying their vacation,” he said.
Articles 415 and 416 of the Criminal Code which had just been ratified contained a complaint offence therefore, criminal action can be imposed if there are parties who report it. Reports may only be made by husbands or wives for those who are legally married, or by parents, for those who are still single.
“Let’s together build the image of tourism and provide correct explanations so that our tourism in Badung, in particular, remains a priority for domestic and foreign tourists. Like the tagline, Badung the soul of Bali,” said Rudiarta.
He has also appealed to the association through the Badung Regency Tourism Promotion Agency to provide a correct explanation of the current legal situation.
As reported by Channel News Asia on Wednesday 7th December, the new criminal law will take effect in three years and apply to Indonesians and foreigners living in the country, even to visitors or tourists. This news was widely reported in Australia and elsewhere, where several newspapers dubbed it the “Bali bonk ban”.
The Indonesian economy receives a lot of income from Australian tourism, which was Indonesia’s number one source of tourism before the pandemic. Thousands of people fly to Bali every month to enjoy the warm weather, “cheap beer“, and all-night beach parties.
In addition, weddings in Bali are also common, and thousands of Australian postgraduate students fly to Bali every year to celebrate high school graduations. For many young Australians, a trip to Bali is seen as a rite of passage.
Once the RKUHP was passed, doubts about the future of travel began to emerge. Some tourists said they would start travelling with their marriage certificate, while others who were unmarried said they would go elsewhere if the law meant they would not be allowed to share a hotel room with their partner.
“What a way to destroy Bali’s tourism industry,” wrote one user on the Bali Travel Community group.
Under the new law, unmarried couples caught having sex can be jailed for up to a year and those caught living together can be jailed for up to six months. Critics say foreign tourists could also be ensnared.
“Let’s say an Australian tourist has a boyfriend or girlfriend who is local,” Andreas Harsono, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). “Visitors have been told not to worry too much, as police will only investigate if a family member makes a complaint – such as a parent, spouse, or child of the alleged perpetrator. But that in itself is dangerous,” Harsono said.
It may only be applied against certain targets, he told ABC radio. “Maybe a hotel, maybe a foreign tourist… which will allow certain police officers to extort bribes or certain politicians to use, say, blasphemy laws, to imprison their opponents,” he added.
However, the Bali Indonesian Tourism Industry Association (GIPI) has denied news of flight cancellations for thousands of tourists from Perth, Australia to Denpasar, Bali after the ratification of the Criminal Code.
“Until now, no one has cancelled flights. This means that there is no reduction in the number of flights,” said the Chairman of GIPI Bali, Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana on Thursday.
The number of arrivals of foreign and domestic tourists to the Island of the Gods in early December is totalling over 10,000 visits per day.
“This figure shows that Bali is still safe and there has been no effect on the ratification of the law. Let’s just use data from the airport, if the number suddenly drops from the usual 10,000 visits to 6,000 visits, for example, then we should be suspicious, ” he explained.
He predicted that after Christmas, the number of tourist visits to Bali will increase.
“The ministers must immediately give an official statement and don’t delay. The hope is that Bali will still recover and not be affected by this issue, right? We still need information,” he said.