Possible Ban on Sex Outside Marriage in Indonesia


While religious freedom is stipulated in the Indonesian constitution, the government officially recognizes only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim majority country, about 87.2 percent of the population in 2010. It has an estimated population of over 260 million people (September 2016) and it is the fourth most populous country in the world. Existing Indonesian law makes adultery illegal but does not ban sexual relations between unmarried people. Now, in the twenty-first century, Indonesia faces the possible extension of that law in banning sex outside marriage.

The first to be threatened by the new legislation are certainly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. If the law is passed in December or early next year, casual sex and gay sexual relations would become illegal for the first time in Indonesian history and straight unmarried couples could face prosecution. The Family Love Alliance, a conservative Islamist advocacy organization, has insisted and petitioned the Constitutional Court on such changes of law. Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but LGBT people can face discrimination with making sexual relations outside marriage illegal. Also, there is a big threat especially for women because pregnant unmarried women are easily noticeable and can be punished on the basis of the new measures.

Human rights organizations warn that the situation is very dangerous for Indonesia because this petition consists of discrimination towards all Indonesians. Legal Aid Center is one of several progressive advocacy organizations arguing against revising the constitution to ban extramarital sex. Indonesian conservatives interpret their country’s constitution to support loosely defined religious values and over the past 1½ years, gays have become a particular target of these religious values. Recently LGBT people in Indonesia are facing growing hostility and intolerance, homophobic attacks and hate speech even launched by Indonesian authorities. Dewi Inong, a doctor, warned the court about her LGBT patients and their promiscuity consisting of continuous changing partners. 

Another worry about the court case, according to Santi Kusumaningrum, co-director of the Center on Child Protection at the University of Indonesia, is that only about half of Indonesian couples have been legally married. Millions of couples with informal and ceremonial marriages will no longer be legally able to have sex if this law passes.

Progressive activists are aware that a ban on sex outside marriage would be difficult, or maybe impossible for the government to enforce but they fear that it would empower local vigilantes to expose and extort cohabiting unmarried couples.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia

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