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Indonesia Passes New Law, Prohibits Sex Outside Marriage

Indonesia has passed a controversial criminal code that includes outlawing sex outside marriage and cohabitation, in changes that critics contend could undermine freedoms in the Southeast Asian nation.

The new laws apply to Indonesians and foreigners and also restore a ban on insulting the president, state institutions or Indonesia’s national ideology known as Pancasila.

The new criminal code, which was approved unanimously by parliament on Tuesday, replaces a framework that had been in use since independence in 1946 and was a mix of Dutch law, customary law known as hukum adat, and modern Indonesian law.

“We have tried our best to accommodate the important issues and different opinions which were debated. However, it is time for us to make a historical decision on the penal code amendment and to leave the colonial criminal code we inherited behind,” Ya sonna Laoly, minister of law and human rights, told parliament ahead of the vote.

The planned code sparked a nation wide student led protest when a full draft was released in September 2019, amid fears it would curtail personal freedoms. At least 300 people were hurt in the unrest which was also fuelled by concerns that new laws would reduce the fight against corruption.

The new code must still be signed by the president, according to Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights Edward Hiariej. It will also not apply immediately, with the transition from the old code to the new one expected to take a maximum of three  years.

Cohabitation will be punishable by six months in prison or a fine, although only if reported to the police by parents, children, or a spouse.

Rights groups say the proposals underscore the increasing conservatism of a country long hailed for its religious tolerance, with secularism enshrined in its constitution.

“We are going backward… repressive laws should have been abolished but the bill shows that the arguments of scholars abroad are true, that our democracy is indisputably in decline,” Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid told the AFP news agency.

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