The Indonesian parliament approved a new criminal code on Tuesday (6 December) that prohibits sex in Indonesia outside of marriage.
It was passed with the support of all political parties and will apply to both Indonesians and tourists, with a maximum prison sentence of one year. Unmarried couples are also prohibited from living together under new laws.
Adultery but not sex outside of marriage is currently prohibited in the country, and the new law will not take effect for three years.
However, there are concerns about what this development will mean for tourists.
The deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism board Maulana Yusran told Reuters that the new regulations are “totally counterproductive” when the country is attempting to recover from the COVID-19 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.”
How will the sex ban affect Indonesian tourists?
Bali is a popular tourist destination for people from all over the world, but especially for Australians. Every year, over a million Australians travel to Indonesia.
The new legislation has been dubbed the “Bali bonk ban” by local newspapers.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, but it’s not the first time it’s happened,” said Jeremy Finch, an Australian tourist in Bali. “I believe they tried to bring it in in 2019, but it failed.”
Australia has stated that it is “seeking further clarification” on the impact of the ban on tourists in Bali and other parts of the country.
A US State Department spokesperson told a news conference that the country was concerned about how the changes would affect citizens visiting and living in Indonesia.
However, authorities have insisted that it will not affect foreign visitors because there are restrictions on who can report people who violate new ‘morality’ laws. It is only available to suspected offenders’ parents, spouses, or children.
However, because the ban on pre-marital sex isn’t set to take effect for another three years, it’s unclear what effect it might have on tourists.
Apart from discouraging tourists from visiting Indonesia, it may also deter international investment in the country’s tourism industry.
“Criminalizing individuals’ personal decisions would loom large within the decision matrix of many companies deciding whether to invest in Indonesia,” warned US Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim.
Human rights groups have criticized Indonesia’s new criminal code, which restricts protest and prohibits criticism of the country’s president.
Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, called it “appalling” and a “significant blow” to the country’s progress on human rights.
‘Morality’ provisions, he added, could be abused to criminalize victims of sexual assault or members of the LGBTI community. While homosexuality is not illegal in the majority of Indonesia, same-sex marriage is not permitted.
“Consensual sexual relationships should not be considered a crime or a violation of’morality.'”