“It will be a problem”: Here’s what Indonesia’s pre-marital sex ban means for Bali tourists

Bali, Indonesia- 16 Oct, 2019: Locals and tourists on crowded Kuta Beach in Bali a popular travel destination.

The “Bali bonk ban” is back, bringing with it massive implications for tourists.

Indonesia has introduced a new criminal code that bans sex outside of marriage which could see offenders jailed for up to a year.

The new criminal code also bans cohabitation between unmarried couples, insulting the president or state institutions, spreading views that counter state ideology, protesting without notification and black magic.

While these laws will not come into effect for three years, local businesses have warned they are likely to deter tourists.

Simon Butt, professor and director of the centre for Asian and Pacific law at the University of Sydney’s law school, told ABC News the laws will apply to tourists.

However, Butt said police will not be able to investigate these crimes without a complaint and those caught engaging in pre-marital sex can only be reported by a spouse, parents or their children.

“It is unlikely, in practice, to affect tourists travelling to Indonesia, provided that no such complaints are made to Indonesian police,” Butt said.

According to Indonesian MP Taufik Basari, de facto couples will not be affected by the law and only foreigners who have sex with a local person, married or unmarried will be affected.

Even then, the foreigner would need to be reported by an immediate relative.

A spokesperson for Indonesia’s justice ministry told WAToday.com that Australian tourists “shouldn’t be worried” about the new laws, as there is less risk for tourists despite the laws also applying to them.

However, Andreas Harsono, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch told ABC News Aussie tourists need to be wary.

“Let’s say an Australian tourist has a boyfriend or a girlfriend who is a local, then the local parents or the local brother or sister reported the tourist to the police,” Harsono said.

“It will be a problem.”

Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said in a Tweet that the laws would ruin the county’s tourism industry.

“Passage of #Indonesia’s rights abusing criminal code that outlaws sex out of wedlock will blow up #Bali’s tourism industry is what I’m hearing at the resort where I’m staying for a just completed conference,” Robertson said.

“Why is @jokowi & his government trying to ruin the country’s tourism?”

Butt said there was also the potential for “immoral acts” to be prosecuted, which might extend to public affection between same-sex couples.

The laws, which critics have labelled as a “disaster” for human rights, will also have wider implications for the LGBTQI+ community in Indonesia, where same-sex marriage is still outlawed.


Image: iStock/Pandjaitan

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