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Indonesia’s ‘gay sex ban’ is a ‘human rights disaster’ for LGBT people

Vic Parsons September 20, 2019

Muslim protesters march against the LGBT+ community in Banda Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, in 2017. (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A comprehensive overhaul of Indonesia’s criminal code that would effectively put a gay sex ban in place has been slammed by human rights groups.

New laws being proposed will ban sex between unmarried couples and make it illegal for unmarried couples to live together.

As same-sex relationships are not recognised under Indonesian law, it will be illegal for same-sex couples to live together and gay sex will be effectively criminalised.

Although the new bill doesn’t specifically mention same-sex conduct, activists are calling on Indonesian president Joko Widodo to revise the bill. Human Rights Watch says the new laws will punish Indonesia’s LGBT+ community.

“Indonesia’s draft criminal code is disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians,” Human Rights Watch’s Andreas Harsono said.

The Indonesian parliament should  “substantially revise the proposed new criminal code to meet international human rights standards”, Harsono said.


The Australian government has updated its travel advice, warning unmarried Australians that they could be jailed for having sex in Indonesia under the proposed new laws, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Tim Lindsey, of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society in Melbourne, said the current Indonesian parliament seemed to be in an “insane rush” to pass into law a new criminal code that was “highly regressive”.

“The extra marital sex provision is new to Indonesia, it will create huge problems for foreigners if it’s enforced, though Indonesia is awash with laws that are never enforced,” he said.

“Will tourists have to take marriage certificates to Indonesia? This also exposes foreigners to extortion. It would be easy for a police officer in Bali to say ‘you aren’t married, you have to pay me’. That’s a quite likely scenario.”

A draft version of the new law suggests that sex outside marriage would be punishable with a six-month prison sentence, while unmarried couples cohabiting could face a year in jail.

It will also be illegal to criticise the president, spread communist ideology, display contraception to a minor and criminalise fake news, bestiality and black magic. Access to abortions will also be restricted.

More: gay sex, Indonesia, Joko Widodo

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