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What Indonesia’s New Law Banning Premarital Sex Means for Tourists


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What Indonesia’s New Law Banning Premarital Sex Means for Tourists

The Indonesian parliament has approved a new criminal code that prohibits premarital sex in the country. Under the new laws, which go into effect in three years, having sex outside of marriage will result in a year in prison. The country also prohibits cohabitation between unmarried couples, an offence punishable with up to six months of jail time. In a plenary session on Tuesday, the Parliament passed the bill, which also limits how much people can criticize the president and public institutions and restricts the rights of LGBTQ citizens.

Lawmakers first introduced the bill in 2019, which sparked violent nationwide protests and backlash. They soon put the proposed law on the back burner. Up until now, Indonesia forbade adultery, but not premarital sex. Critics see the laws as a “disaster” for human rights, with the potential to alienate and endanger key tourism demographics in Indonesia.

Since the law says that prosecution will simply begin upon a complaint, experts worry that people may misuse it with dire consequences. This may open the doors to “selective law enforcement” and targeted prosecution.

So what does this mean for vacationing couples? Ideally, foreigners visiting the country should not have to worry about the new law. For prosecutions to start, the children, parents or spouse of the accused couple must file a complaint. Nevertheless, there would be little protection for those involved.

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As a tropical paradise, many believe Indonesia to be a blissful destination for nature and adventure. However, there are a few laws and customs to be aware of, respect and follow. In many parts of Indonesia, drinking alcohol and playing card games, which are often associated with gambling, are things you should avoid. However, there is an exception in tourist destinations with a high number of international visitors, such as Bali. Indonesia’s province of Aceh has punished people for gambling and consuming alcohol. The police once detained several young men and women for having mohawk haircuts. In 2013, they also banned women passengers from straddling motorbikes. The country’s blasphemy law makes it illegal to promote atheism, or any faith other than the religious identities officially recognized. It can get you up to five years in prison.

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