Legislating Morality

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Indonesia is considering a new law to punish sex outside of marriage with prison time, part of an upcoming overhaul of the national criminal code that has raised concerns among human rights advocates and investors, Fox News reported.

Under the bill, neither Indonesian nationals nor foreigners would be allowed to engage in sexual relations outside of wedlock or cohabitation before marriage.

Only certain parties, such as relatives, may lodge a complaint against offenders. If convicted, the offender could receive one year in jail.

Government officials praised the bill for being “in line with Indonesian values.” It is expected to pass this week.

The legislation has worried business groups, who said it could severely hinder tourism investment in Indonesia. Such strict morality clauses are not unknown in Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim population in the world.

The province of Aceh upholds stringent Islamic rule: It forbids gambling, drinking alcohol, and meeting with those of the opposite sex, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, human rights groups expressed concern over other clauses in the new criminal code, including imprisonment for up to three years for insulting the president — a charge that only the president can report.

Other penalties include sentences of up to five years in prison for insulting the national flag, emblems, and the anthem.

A first attempt to pass a new criminal code in 2019 sparked countrywide protests, with critics citing concerns about civil freedoms.

Critics believe that few changes have been made to the code since then, implying that it would essentially mirror the set of laws that provoked those demonstrations.

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