Tourists unlikely to be at risk

A week after the Indonesian parliament passed the controversial new criminal code, which criminalizes, among other things, sex outside marriage, and cohabitation of unmarried couples; The authorities have been driven to address the fears of tourists and foreigners visiting the country.

Authorities say the new criminal code is unlikely to affect tourists and foreigners visiting or living in the country. This is despite the fact that technically the penal code applies to all – citizens and foreigners visiting the country.

In the last:

I want to emphasize for foreign tourists, please come to Indonesia, because you will not be charged with this article.

– Indonesia Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej

  • The governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, added on Sunday that there is nothing to fear because the new criminal code guarantees “everyone’s privacy and comfort”.
  • He also added that since the provisions regarding adultery (which has been banned for years), sex outside of marriage, and cohabitation are pursued based on complaints from parents, spouses or children, it is unlikely to affect tourists.
  • Koster assured tourists that hotels, accommodations, police and other places in Indonesia do not check tourists or ask for their marriage certificates.

What was the problem? Indonesia’s new criminal code has spooked tourists visiting the country, especially Australians, who make up the majority of tourists to the island nation.

  • Those who plan their trips to the country were confused about whether they have to carry their marriage certificates with them, or if they travel with their girlfriend/boyfriend or friends of the opposite sex, they will land in trouble.
  • Tour operators in the country have also expressed their fear about the new criminal code, saying that this will dampen the “perception” of tourists about the destination.
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The new Criminal Code could instill a negative perception, not only for fear of personal safety, but also for travelers concerned about the rights of local people.

– Gary Bowerman, director of Check-in Asia research company (Al Jazeera)

  • The deputy head of Indonesia’s Tourism Industry Board, Maulana Yusran, called the new code “counterproductive” for the tourism industry, especially since the industry was just starting to recover from the pandemic.
  • The penalty for violation of cohabitation and sex outside of marriage is 6 months imprisonment and one year imprisonment respectively.
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Tourism is important to Indonesia’s economy as it contributes almost 5% to the GDP. In 2019, over 16 million tourists visited Indonesia.

On the other hand, Indonesian authorities do not see that the tourism industry is affected because of the criminal code. They say they are still expecting a record number of footfalls next year and that reports of cancellations are a hoax.

While tourists and foreigners in Indonesia may not be at risk of prosecution due to the criminal code, which still needs approval from President Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s citizens have more to worry about than cohabitation and extramarital sex. For one, the rights of women and LGBTQIA+ will be negatively affected and secondly, the ban on insulting the president of the country would effectively suppress criticism of the government.


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