Indonesian lawmakers passed a sweeping new criminal law on Tuesday that criminalizes sex outside of marriage, part of a raft of changes that critics say threaten human rights and freedoms in the Southeast Asian country.
The new law, which also applies to foreign residents and tourists, bans premarital cohabitation, apostasy, and provides penalties for insulting the president or expressing opinions opposed to national ideology.
“Everyone agreed to pass (the draft changes) into law,” said MP Bambang Worianto, who led the parliamentary committee tasked with revising the colonial-era law. “The old code belongs to the Dutch heritage…and is no longer relevant.”
The blasphemy offense, which is already on the Indonesian books, may now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Critics and rights groups have warned that the new law will “disproportionately affect women” and further restrict human rights and freedoms in the Muslim-majority country of more than 270 million people.
An earlier draft of the law was due to pass in 2019, but was delayed after nationwide protests.
Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, warned that the laws are open to abuse.
He said, “The danger of repressive laws is not that they are widely applied, but rather that they provide a means of selective enforcement.”
Harsono called the new laws “a setback for the already declining religious freedom in Indonesia,” warning that “non-believers could be prosecuted and imprisoned.”
This is a developing story. More is coming.