Indonesia debates bill criminalizing gay sex and any sex outside of marriage | News | DW | 06.02.2018
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Indonesia debates bill criminalizing gay sex and any sex outside of marriage

Indonesia's parliament speaker has called for reforms to the criminal code that would outlaw any sex outside of marriage, including gay sex. Critics say the bill would also weaken checks and balances on democracy.

Indonesian lawmakers began debating controversial changes to the country's criminal code on Tuesday, which critics warn would violate human rights and undermine the country's democracy.

Indonesia's parliament speaker Bambang Soesatyo opened proceedings by urging lawmakers to consider the legislation that would curb "homosexual excesses."

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Writing in the Indonesian daily Koran Sindo, Soesatyo also said Tuesday that gay lifestyles in the country had spawned "horrifying" excesses, such as murder, HIV/AIDS and pedophilia.

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"If these people actively promote their lifestyles, it will be very worrying," he said. "We urge the state to take firm action."

While homosexuality is not illegal in the world's largest Muslim majority country, it has long been viewed as a bugbear to both Indonesia's Islamic and secular political parties. Gay marriage is not permitted.

The country's LGBT community has also faced an increasing amount of prosecution in the past two years, with multiple reports of police raids on gay-friendly establishments. Scores of gay people have also been detained on suspicion of prostitution and pornographic acts. 

Jail sentences

Under the proposed law, a person found guilty of engaging in "a lewd act" with another person of the same sex could face a sentence of up to 18 months. That sentence could rise to 12 years if the partner is of the same-sex and under the age of 18.

The draft bill also states that sex between a man and a woman who are unmarried should be punishable by up to five years' prison.

Influential conservative groups in Indonesia, such as the Family Love Alliance, have long argued that the country has become overwhelmed by immoral acts, such as sex between young unmarried couples.

Democracy under threat?

While the bans on sexual behavior have gathered the most attention, the proposed legislative revisions also contain changes that risk undermining the country's young democracy.

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The new law contains one article that would make criticism of the president liable to defamation charges, while another appears to weaken Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission, which has been lauded as one of the country's most effective public bodies.

Rights group decry law changes

Rights groups have chided the proposed legislative reforms,  describing them as a threat to personal privacy and a violation of human rights.

"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.

In 2016, Kyle Knight, an LGBT researcher with Human Rights Watch, told DW that efforts to curb homosexuality in Indonesia were being spearheaded by just a few "bigoted" experts with a "twisted worldview."

More than 50,000 people have also signed an online petition against the proposals

"We call on the House of Representatives to remove provisions which could penalize women, victims of rape, children, those who did not register their marriages and the public in general," the petition said.

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dm/msh (AP, dpa)

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