Pleasure lost or pleasure redefined?
Indonesia has now made sex outside marriage a crime. Unmarried couples and Canadian tourists planning a holiday trip to Indonesia may have to think again.
Indonesia’s parliament has just passed the new law that bans sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail, despite worries the laws may scare away tourists from its shores and harm investment.
Lawmakers approved a new criminal code which will apply to Indonesians and foreigners alike. It will also ban insulting the president or state institutions, spreading views counter to the state ideology, and staging protests without notification.
Sex outside of marriage can be punished with up to a one-year prison term; living with someone who isn’t your spouse can lead to six months. Charges must be based on police reports filed by parents, children or spouses.
However, the code will not come into effect for three years to allow for implementing regulations to be drafted.
Currently, Indonesia bans adultery but not premarital sex.
Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, said the new code was “totally counter-productive” at a time when the economy and tourism were starting to recover from the pandemic.
We deeply regret the government have closed their eyes. We have already expressed our concern to the ministry of tourism about how harmful this law is,” he said.
The world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has seen a rise in religious conservatism in recent years. Strict Islamic laws are already enforced in parts of the country, including the semi-autonomous Aceh province, where alcohol and gambling are banned. Public floggings also take place in the region for a range of offenses including homosexuality and adultery.
Foreign arrivals in the holiday destination of Bali are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels of six million by 2025, the tourism association has said previously, as the island recovers from the impacts of COVID-19. Indonesia is also trying to attract more so-called “digital nomads” to its tropical shores by offering a more flexible visa.
What the new sex law means to Canadians
Canada and Indonesia share a long-standing partnership of over 65 years. Since 2000, Canada has provided over $1 billion in official development assistance (ODA) to Indonesia with an average of $44 million (all channels combined) per year over the past 5 years. Bilateral funding to Indonesia in the fiscal year 2021 to 2022 was approximately $13.5 million.
Tourism is a vital part of Indonesia’s economy and the World Bank reported that over 4 million tourists visited Indonesia in 2020.
The ambiguity of the new criminal code and how it will be enforced leaves foreigners in a gray zone. Because charges of adultery or cohabitation can only be filed by close relatives, law-breaking tourists might go undetected. Moreover, reporting foreigners goes against the interests of Western-style hotels in vacation destinations like Bali, which rely on tourist dollars to stay afloat.
But for singles looking to mingle or unwed couples hoping for a romantic escape to the gorgeous Indonesia beaches, possible jail time isn’t synonymous with “a paradise vacation.” Unless Indonesia relaxes the laws, travelers must consider if the risk is worth the reward.