Politics, News

If you’re unmarried in Indonesia, falling in love could land you in jail

Children and under-age victims of sexual exploitation are also in danger of being arrested.

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The debate about proposed amendments to the KUHP (Indonesia’s Criminal Code) has inflamed social media in Indonesia. The laws are currently being proposed, revised, and edited this week by Indonesia’s Parliament, and the backlash from citizens has not been positive. 

[The petition against the RKUHP on Change.org.] via Change.org

How will the proposed amendments work?

In the revised edition of the KUHP, a proposed suggestion in article 483, paragraph 1, letter e, and article 484 criminalizes adultery, which is defined as married people having sex with unmarried people, as well as men and women who are unmarried but also have consensual sex. It is punishable by up to five years in prison. The husband, wife, or a “concerned” third party can make a complaint to start an investigation – once made, the complaint cannot be withdrawn. 

Article 495 now states that same-sex relations with a minor are punishable by nine years imprisonment. The draft also classifies same-sex relations between adults as sexual abuse, which includes any relations that are “carried out with violence or threat of violence,” “violates public decency,” or “relating to pornography.” This will give judges a wide berth to interpret just what violates “public decency,” especially since most legal judges in Indonesia view any and all same-sex relations to be inherently immoral, violating sociocultural and religious norms. Therefore, even consensual same-sex relations could be prosecuted simply because the judge is negatively biased against them.

Sharing information about pregnancy prevention and abortion have also become criminalized, both of which become punishable with large fines.

Who and what will the amendments affect?

[IMG: A group of Muslim women are smiling during their lesson at a woman’s school in Indonesia] via Australian Embassy Jakarta
In a word? Everyone. 

1. The amendments place the burden of proof of innocence on the accused (guilty until proven innocent). Victims of sexual crimes will become more afraid to report than they already are, because if they can’t prove that the rape occurred (or if the perpetrator insists that the sex was consensual) then victims could be jailed and accused of adultery instead of being helped by the police. 

2. Children and under-age victims of sexual exploitation could also be in danger of being arrested.

3. People in lesbian or gay relationships cannot legally get married in Indonesia. Homosexual relationships are still highly taboo in Indonesia and are often viewed as being unnatural and sinful. If these amendments pass, then any and all LGBT people will be at risk of incarceration, even if their relationships are consensual.

4. Indonesia only recognizes six official religions, which means that people who marry according to the beliefs of their tribe (there are thousands of tribes and smaller ethnic groups living in the country) could be prosecuted. Anyone who doesn’t have a national ID card or has lost their documents, or never received a legal marriage certificate, could also be jailed.

6. Women in Indonesia are sometimes promised marriage by men as a way to coerce them into agreeing to sex. Some of these women get pregnant, and nurse hopes of starting a family. However, they are often abandoned to fend for themselves–under this provision, they would be criminalized instead of being protected or aided.

7. The largest danger of this law is that it would enable mob culture and vigilante behavior, problems Indonesia already struggles with. People with personal vendettas against enemies or neighbors could possibly report them out of “concern”. Parents who disapprove of their children’s choices in partners and scorned exes could also make false reports simply to get revenge. 

8. Anyone who is not an authorized government official is banned from sharing information about family planning, sexual education, and STI prevention.  NGO staff and volunteers, writers and activists, Youtubers, and anyone else who is caught talking about sexual and reproductive health could be fined. Peer education programs, feminist groups, and community-based resources could all be shut down due to the proposed amendments.

What two consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes do should not be the government’s concern. Sexual health and abortion information is also very important – without proper education, the rates of STIs, teen pregnancy, and maternal and neonatal mortality would increase. This isn’t just about same-sex relations–this involves citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of expression, as well as their fundamental right to know about their health.

What are people saying?

Cynthia, a public relations and communications student in Jakarta, explained, “Truthfully, I don’t think that what people do in private is the government’s business, as long as it’s consensual. If this law gets passed, the common people won’t have any rights to privacy anymore.”

One commenter on Twitter said, “Rejecting the RUUKUHP isn’t necessarily about personally supporting LGBT relationships. This involves everyone. There has to be a boundary that prevents the government from getting too involved in personal and private matters like sexual, consensual relationships.”

Other groups and communities have also taken up the battle against the proposed changes. Forums will be held this weekend and next to discuss exactly what the changes would mean for LGBT Indonesians and everyone else. 

How can you help?

Sign the Change.org petition! Your support helps us show Parliament that turning the proposed changes into legislation is not a good idea. The more support the petition gets, the more news channels will pick up the story. And start the conversation–with your friends and family. If you’re in Indonesia, then ask proponents of the changes if they know exactly what will be taken away.SaveSaveSaveSave

Theodora Sarah Abigail

Theodora Sarah Abigail

A beating heart in a warm body. Ebi writes too much and reads too little, and loves to drink sweet tea on hot days. She cares about education, literacy, and fostering open dialogue.

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