Jakarta, Indonesia – Riding a tsunami of moral conservatism and anti-gay prejudice, Indonesia’s Islamic political parties appear on the cusp of a major victory: Outlawing all sex outside marriage.
Revisions to Indonesia’s criminal code being considered by Parliament would allow prison sentences of up to five years for sex between unmarried people. Those changes would also criminalize gay sex, the bugbear of Indonesia’s Islamic and secular political parties.
Rights groups and legal experts fear a profound setback to human rights and privacy in Indonesia, one of the world’s largest democracies, and the spread of vigilantism, already common in parts of the sprawling Muslim-majority nation of more than 250 million people. They are racing to organize opposition. An online petition launched this week has gathered more than 20,000 signatures.
“Indonesia, whose constitution guarantees human rights and has ratified many human rights covenants, will be ridiculed by the world for creating a law that is potentially violating many of those rights,” said Said Muhammad Isnur, head of advocacy at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation.
While the possible criminalization of sex between unmarried consenting adults has grabbed attention, the revised criminal code, which has nearly 800 articles, also contains changes that could weaken checks and balances in Indonesia’s young democracy. One article potentially makes criticism of the president defamation and other articles could be used to weaken the Corruption Eradication Commission, one of Indonesia’s most effective public institutions.
Asrul Sani, a lawmaker from the Islamic-based United Development Party, has told reporters that a 25-member parliamentary working committee has agreed on nearly all the articles in the revised code. It and another Islamic party are seeking longer prison sentences for gay sex in circumstances that involve force, public acts or pornography and that is still being argued, he said.