The Indonesian Parliament on Tuesday approved legal amendments banning the extramarital sex in a package of changes to the penal code that, according to its critics, are a setback in freedoms in the Asian country.
When the new penal code was voted by parliamentarians in a plenary session, the legislative president Sufmi Dasco Ahmad He gave the blow to approve it and shouted “legal”.
Rights groups protested against the amendments that, according to them, a blow to civil liberties and a turn toward fundamentalism in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
“We have tried to do our best to accommodate the important issues and the different opinions that were debated,” Yasonna Laoly, Minister for Justice and Human Rights, told deputies.
“However, it is time to take a historic decision on the amendments to the criminal code and leave behind the colonial criminal code that we inherited,” he added.
For decades this country of the Southeast Asia it was debating a reform of its penal code, which dated back to its days as a Dutch colony.
Some of the most controversial articles of the new legislation Criminalize pre- and extra-marital sexas well as the cohabitation of unmarried couples.
There is fear about how these new rules may impact the community LGBTQ in Indonesia, where same-sex marriage is not allowed.
The spokesperson for the team in charge of this law in the Ministry of Justice and Human RightsAlbert Aries, defended the amendments and assured that these new rules would protect the institution of marriage.
It also noted that acts of pre- and extramarital sex could only be reported by a spouse, parent, or child, limiting the scope of the review.
For human rights groups, this legislation supposes a check on morality and a turn towards fundamentalism in a country long praised for its religious tolerance, whose Constitution upholds secularism.
“We are going backwards (…) The repressive laws should have been abolished, but this law shows that the arguments of academics abroad are true, that our democracy is indisputably in decline,” he told the AFP Amnesty International Director for Indonesia Usman Hamid.
A hundred people protested on Monday against the law and displayed a yellow banner with the slogan: “Reject the approval of the revision of the penal code.”
Some dropped flower petals on the banner as is done at funerals.
Abdul Ghofar, an activist with the Indonesian environmental group WALHI, explained that this symbolized the “mourning” of the population for the approval of the legal review.
(With information from AFP)
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