Indonesia: Criminal Code that illegalises sex before marriage and dissenting the regime to be passed December 15th
South East Asia and Pacific Team
Global Human Rights Defence
Indonesia’s parliament is set to pass a new criminal code on the 15th of December that punishes sex outside marriage with up to a year of imprisonment, Reuters reported (2022). Additionally, according to the new code, moving in together before marriage will also be banned (Reuters, 2022). Clauses of the new criminal code further illegalise abortion (except in the case of rape) and “black magic”, while another clause prohibits the public demonstration of contraceptive devices for everyone except medical professionals (The Diplomat, 2022).
Furthermore, insulting the president and state institutions as well as voicing opinions that are countering Indonesia’s state ideologies will be criminalised in the new code (Reuters, 2022). This law, if passed, would apply to both citizens and foreigners staying in the country (Reuters, 2022). Critics say the new code would catapult hard-won democratic successes many years back and give more power to morality policing practices (NBC, 2022).
Tomorrow, on Tuesday December 5th, Indonesia’s Parliament is set to ratify the new criminal code in a plenary session (NBC, 2022). Indonesia's deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej stated being “proud” that this new code will be “in line with Indonesia’s values” (Reuters, 2022). In fact, an overhaul of the criminal code, which still originates from the period of independence of the Dutch colonial regime in 1945, was planned for decades (NBC, 2022).
However, in 2019, a first draft of a new criminal code had resulted in tens of thousands people taking the streets and protesting against the restriction of civil liberties, especially concerning morality and free speech (Reuters, 2022). This year, even though critics say only minimal changes have been made to the draft since then (Reuters, 2022), the public response was considerably less visible (NBC, 2022). While sex outside marriage and insulting the president is still punishable by one or three years of imprisonment, respectively, the new draft specifies that the accusation can only come from close relatives, while an insult of the president can only be reported by the president himself (NBC, 2022).
Indonesia, the world’s biggest muslim-majority country has just weeks ago hosted the G20 conference in Bali. The passing of this new criminal code right after the conference leaves a rather controversial aftertaste to plans of international and cross-cultural cooperation. Human Rights Watch speaker Andreas Harsono says the new criminal code would mean a “huge setback to Indonesian Democracy” (Reuters, 2022).
While this code could bring even more harm to vulnerable communities, Indonesia has already hundreds of local regulations in place that discriminate against women or people from LGBTQ communities and religious minorities. The right to free speech of everyone is under attack, Nurina Savitri, a speaker from Amnesty International Indonesia states. “There are at least 88 articles containing broad provisions that could be misused and misinterpreted by both authorities and the public to criminalize those who peacefully express their opinions or exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and association” (The Diplomat, 2022, n.p.).
Strangio, S. (2022 December, 5). Indonesia Set to Pass Controversial New Criminal Code This Month. The Diplomat. Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2022/12/indonesia-set-to-pass-controversial-new-criminal-code-this-month/ on 05.12.2022.
Indonesia set to pass new criminal code that will ban sex outside marriage (2022 December, 5). NBC NEWS. Retrieved from
Widianto, S. et al. (2022 December, 2). Indonesia set to penalise sex outside marriage in overhaul of criminal code. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/indonesia-set-penalise-sex-outside-marriage-overhaul-criminal-code-2022-12-02/ on 04.12.2022.