Indonesia Delays 'Disastrous' Legislation That Would Ban Extramarital Sex Amid Harsh Criticism

Rachel DeSantis

Legislation that would jail non-married couples in Indonesia who are cohabiting or people having sex outside of marriage has been pushed back by the country’s president following complaints that the restrictions would be “disastrous” for women and other residents.

President Joko Widodo wrote on Twitter Friday that the bill changing the country’s penal code, which was expected to pass on Tuesday, would instead be postponed as several of its 628 articles needed further review.

The delay was a win for human rights activists. The new criminal code would also ban most abortions and crack down on criticisms of the president.

“Indonesia’s draft criminal code is disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Lawmakers should remove all the abusive articles before passing the law.”

Under the new penal code, unmarried couples living together could face six months in jail or a maximum fine equivalent to three months’ salary for the average citizen, according Reuters.

Consensual sex outside of marriage would also be criminalized, effectively outlawing all homosexual relationships as gay marriage is not recognized in the country.

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There would also be a maximum four-year prison term for women who have abortions (not including cases of medical emergency or rape), plus fines for the promotion of contraception and six months in prison for unauthorized discussion of “tools of abortion,” Reuters reports.

The new criminal code would also apply to foreigners — something critics have pointed out would be detrimental to a country trying to attract more tourists, according to The New York Times.

Indonesia’s Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly reintroduced the bill in 2015 to replace the 100-year-old Dutch colonial-era penal code. Laoly told CNN that the changes would make the country’s laws better aligned with how Indonesians live today, as it is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, and, according to Times, the new rules largely reflect Islamic law.

“The state must protect citizens from behavior that is contrary to the supreme precepts of God,” said politician Nasir Djamil, according to CNN.