Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, the Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister, on Monday said Indonesia’s newly revised criminal code that prohibits sex outside marriage would not apply to visitors.
The minister said visitors holidaying in Indonesia would not need to worry about possible criminal complaints concerning sex outside marriage or cohabitation between unmarried couples as stipulated in the new law.
“Tourists will not be charged with these provisions, as only the husband or wife, and parents or children (of the alleged offenders) can file the complaints,” said Mr Hiariej.
Last week, the Indonesian parliament unanimously passed a new criminal code that stipulates that sex outside of marriage is punishable by one year in prison and couples who live together out of wedlock would face six months in prison.
The old criminal code will remain applicable until 2025, it said.
The government was in damage control mode following media coverage about the controversial rules’ changes and was trying to reassure tourists that they would not threaten them.
He added that the provisions would prevent the local community, the regional public and other agencies from playing judge by raiding the residences of unmarried couples who live together and accusing them of adultery.
Bali governor, Wayan Koster, said in a statement on Sunday that the provincial administration would ensure visitors’ data or marital status would remain confidential.
Also, there would be no checking of their marital status upon arrival at accommodations on the resort island.
The statements came amid concerns that the criminal code could deter travellers ahead of the Christmas and New Year holiday season on which Bali pinned its hope to revive its tourism sector hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new criminal code was decades in the making and marked a major revision from the previous code that was a legacy from the Dutch colonial era.
Rights advocates criticised the law as intrusive to citizens’ private lives and undermining political and civic freedoms.