INDONESIAN plans to make cohabiting outside marriage a crime, jail adulterers and stop the open sale of condoms are causing alarm in Bali where the laws would also apply to tourists.
The island’s politicians and tourism leaders are sounding alarm bells over the controversial proposed new laws, saying the State is interfering in issues of morality which could drive away tourists.
The changes are part of a widespread revision of Indonesia’s Criminal Code, known as the Kuhap, which was last revised in the 1950s. The 500-page document, which contains more than 750 articles, is currently before the country’s lawmakers for debate.
Under the proposals, cohabiting outside marriage becomes a crime carrying a one-year jail sentence and would apply to tourists as well as Indonesians. The punishment for adultery goes up from nine months jail to five years.
Tourism chiefs are concerned that if passed and enforced, by arresting tourists sleeping together and checking into hotels as couples, this would be a major disaster for Bali’s travel industry, which is the lifeblood of the island’s economy.
And moves to ban the open sale of contraceptives, which are currently prominently displayed and sold in minimarkets and convenience stores everywhere, have also been criticised.
Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights warns that the controversial aspects of the new code risk returning the country to the 16th Century and driving away tourists who face jail for sleeping together outside marriage. At its most extreme it could even mean police raids on hotels.
Commission member Dianto Bachriadi says the State should not be regulating morality and that if passed, the new laws would mean members of the public are spied upon in their private lives.
Mr Bachriadi says that if the article on cohabitation is not dropped it would apply to foreign tourists in Bali.
“It is applicable for all people in Indonesia, including foreigners. All people who are in Indonesia could be imposed upon, without exception,” Mr Bachriadi said.
“It will be counter-productive to many things, including tourism. It will make tourists run away. Police will actively raid hotels … And it will cause fear for all people. It will negatively affect the economy and all other things. Moreover it is an issue of privacy. About sin, it is their business with God, not the State.”
Bali politician Ketut Kariyasa Adnyana says the Balinese do not want the new laws and the legislature will convey these views to Jakarta.
“The Government’s target is to get more tourists coming to the country. That’s why they create a free visa policy and add more countries to this list. Tourists keep coming to Bali as the Balinese are friendly to all tourists, as well as respecting their privacy,” Mr Adnyana said.
He said it was common knowledge that many tourists in Bali are not married but come together and share hotel rooms on holiday.
“If the new criminal code draft is legalised and is imposed in Bali it will disturb tourism activity. It will build an image that couples outside marriage will be arrested. We in Bali hope that the draft will not be legalised.”
The Bali Tourism Board chairman Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya agrees.
“If it is legalised, of course it will affect foreigners. It means the State has too much interference with people’s lives and religion. … and for sure this will affect tourism.”
Plans to ban the public sale of contraceptives, like condoms, are also under fire. Shops would be banned from offering or showing contraceptives and could only sell them if a customer specifically asks.
Social groups warn such a law is a setback in the prevention of HIV and AIDS and called for the government to focus on crimes like murder and corruption instead of moral issues.
The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, which is co-ordinating an NGO response to the new criminal code, says it smacks of overcriminalisation.
“Too many of the citizens’ acts are qualified as crimes, especially those acts considered to be against religious morals,” executive director Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono said.
“This should not be the main priority of criminal code reformation. There are many other articles that should be a priority, such as corruption, money laundering and human trafficking. The revision process should focus more on those things,” he said.
The new code also makes black magic and witchcraft, practised widely across Indonesia, a crime, with a jail term of five years for using black magic to cause illness, death or suffering.
Indonesia’s parliament is notoriously slow-moving and the new criminal code is not expected to be finalised and passed until the end of 2017. By this time, the Balinese authorities hope the more controversial aspects will have been deleted during the consultation phase.
source: Herald Sun
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