“Moral panic” in Indonesia drives new sex laws

Idonnesia has passed controversial law banning sex outside marriage. Photo: BBC

The Indonesian government has passed a sequence of laws making anything from sex outside marriage to presidential insults illegal.

Danish newspaper, Politiken, reported the laws are considered controversial as they conflict with general freedom of speech and because the rules are very loosely defined, experts fear they could be utilized against anyone the regime wishes to restrict.

Greg Fealy, Professor Emeritus specializing in Indonesian politics at Australian National University, said the prohibition of sex outside marriage is something the Islamic parties have been pushing for for a while and that it is important to stress the laws has wide support in Parliament.

– From large opinion polls we know the Indonesians feel morally threatened. They view homosexuality, adultery and such as a threat to the moral order, said Fealy.

With the recent election in Malaysia, it is vivid that Islamic political parties are advancing and growing in the Southeast Asian region. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and the election in 2024 can potentially serve as a breakthrough for conservative, religious political parties.

According to Politiken, the laws have been passed only after Indonesia hosted the G20 Summit on Bali, where the world’s most significant leaders met. This was probably not a coincidence as the Indonesian government is well aware of how controversial the law is considered in many other parts of the world.

The law creates quite a lot of disturbance in Australia where over a million people travels to Bali every year and Australian airlines have reported of several flight- and hotel cancelations.

Professor in Asian studies at University of Tasmania in Australia, James Chin, does however not believe tourists should worry much about the sex rules as they will only become effective in three-four years and will soften as the process moves forward. Instead, James Chin believes people should feel more uneasy about the Islamic uprising.

As of now, the law has already been included clauses to protect the tourism industry. For instance, only family members can turn each other in for having sex outside marriage, which, according to James Chin, is a proof of the government attempting to show moral flexibility.

– There are ministers who are aware that this could potentially harm the economy. A ban on sex is the last thing Bali needs right now as the Island is slowly rehabilitating after the pandemic, said Chin and added the problem is even bigger than that as businesses are at risk of being held responsible in different ways.

– Companies can be held responsible for employees who breaks the law. Foreign companies have warned the government this might affect investments negatively.

This is a problem for President Joko Widodo who is desperate to attract foreign investments. When the laws have been passed anyway, it underlines that this is a moral imperative for the government. They felt obliged to.

Source: https://politiken.dk/udland/art9112146/%C2%BBTurister-beh%C3%B8ver-ikke-v%C3%A6re-bekymrede-over-sexreglerne%C2%AB 

About Jeannette Hinrup

Jeannette Sophie Hinrup is a Danish environmental geographer traveling South East Asia while writing for ScandAsia.

View all posts by Jeannette Hinrup

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