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Indonesia's new penal code bans extra-marital sex

Indonesia's parliament has approved a new criminal code that bans anyone in the country from having extramarital sex and restricts political freedoms. Sex outside marriage will carry a jail term of up to a year under the new laws, which take effect in three years.

The raft of changes comes after a rise in religious conservatism in the Muslim-majority country. Critics see the laws as a "disaster" for human rights, and a potential blow to tourism and investment. Several groups of mainly young people protested against the legislation outside parliament in Jakarta this week. It is expected the new laws will be challenged in court.

They apply equally to locals and to foreigners living in Indonesia, or visiting holiday destinations such as Bali. Under the laws, unmarried couples caught having sex can be jailed for up to a year. They are also banned from living together - an act for which people could be jailed for up to six months. Adultery will also be an offense for which people can be jailed.

Sex before marriage was already banned prior to the approval of this new criminal code, but the law was often not enforced. The old law defined adultery as sex between a married man and someone who was not his wife, while the new law bans all sex outside of marriage, including between unmarried couples. The sentencing for those caught has also been increased from nine months to a year.

Human Rights groups say the new provisions disproportionately affect women, LGBT people, and ethnic minorities. Many businesses had also been opposed to the legislation, saying it discouraged visitors and investment. But lawmakers have celebrated overhauling laws dating back to Dutch colonial rule.

The new legislation contains scores of new clauses criminalizing immorality and blasphemy and restricting political and religious expression. It is a huge setback for a country that has tried to portray itself as a modern Muslim democracy.

There are now also six blasphemy laws in the code, including apostasy - renouncing a religion. For the first time since its independence, Indonesia will make it illegal to persuade someone to be a non-believer.

People are angry that their liberty is being taken. Indonesia has plenty of problems like poverty, climate change and corruption, but instead of solving a problem they've created a bill that only adds to the problem.


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