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Sex outside marriage banned in Indonesia, offenders face up to a year in jail

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INDONESIA’S Parliament unanimously voted on Tuesday, December 6, to ban sex outside of marriage and insulting the President and state institutions.

The bans are part of an overhaul of the country’s criminal code that has been in the works for years and once in force, will affect foreign visitors as well as citizens.

“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 amended code says sex outside marriage is punishable by a year in jail and cohabitation by six months, but adultery charges must be based on police reports lodged by a spouse, parents or children.

Citizens could also face a 10-year prison term for associating with organisations that follow Marxist-Leninist ideology and a four-year sentence for spreading Communism.

Rights groups criticized some of the revisions as overly broad or vague and warned that adding them to the code could penalize normal activities and threaten freedom of expression and privacy rights.

However, some advocates welcomed the passage as a victory for the country’s LGBTQ community. After fierce deliberation, lawmakers eventually agreed to remove an article proposed by Islamic groups that would have made gay sex illegal.

The new code also expands an existing blasphemy law and prescribes a five-year prison term for deviations from the central tenets of Indonesia’s six recognized religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

The code maintains a previous ban on abortion, but updates it to add exceptions already provided in a 2004 Medical Practice Law, for women with life-threatening medical conditions and for rape, provided that the fetus is less than 12 weeks old.

Under Indonesian regulations, legislation passed by Parliament becomes law after being signed by the President. But even without the President’s signature, it automatically takes effect after 30 days unless the President issues a regulation to cancel it.

President Joko Widodo is widely expected to sign the revised code in light of its extended approval process in Parliament.

Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights Edward Hiariej said the law is likely to gradually take effect over a period of up to three years.

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