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Indonesia seeks to allay fears over premarital sex ban

December 12, 2022

Officials have sought to downplay worries about a new law that criminalizes sex outside marriage. The country said foreign tourists would not face charges under the legislation.

Couple walking on a tropical beach in Bali
Officials say foreign holidaymakers will not be charged for having sex outside of wedlockImage: Ivan Tykhyi/Zoonar/picture alliance

The Indonesian government on Monday dismissed concerns that tourists to the archipelago nation could face possible criminal charges — and prison sentences — for sex outside marriage

A major overhaul of the criminal code was passed unanimously by the Indonesian parliament last week, sparking concerns that the change to the law would damage the country's significant tourism industry.

What is the new law?

A revision to the existing criminal law, the new legislation prohibits sex outside marriage and cohabitation between unmarried couples.

Officials in the world's largest Muslim-majority country say the changes — to come into effect from 2025 — are intended to uphold "Indonesian values."

The new code, which must also still be approved by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, includes provisions stipulating sex outside of marriage is punishable by one year in prison.

Meanwhile, couples who live together when not married could face jail terms of up to six months.

Tourists told not to worry

Indonesia's Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej dismissed concerns on Monday, saying foreigners would not be prosecuted.

"I want to emphasize for foreign tourists, please come to Indonesia because you will not be charged with this article," Hiariej told reporters.

He added that both extramarital sex and cohabitation offenses would only be prosecuted if they were reported by a spouse, parent, or child. He noted that adultery had already been illegal for years.

Will a new law end bride kidnapping in Indonesia?

Governor Wayan Koster, on the vacation island of Bali, also tried to allay fears about the law. He said local authorities would not be checking tourists' marital status.

Tourism is an important part of Indonesia's economy, contributing almost 5% of its gross domestic product. In 2019, the year before the coronavirus pandemic, the country received more than 16 million visitors.

rc/rt (AFP, dpa)