A new controversial bill is making its way to Indonesia, in a move that will rollback human rights significantly. The new penal code would criminalise sex outside of marriage and effectively outlaw same-sex relations as Indonesian law doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage.

The draft code is filled with provisions that will set the country back decades. Not only will there be penalties that could see couples living together outside of marriage face six months in prison, but there will be a heavy crackdown on abortion laws, press freedom and even freedom of speech.

Human Rights Watch have criticised the new impending law, describing it as “disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians.”

Several organisations have banded together to appeal to President Joko Widodo and delay the passing of the law which they say will discriminate against non-Muslims, non-Sunni Muslims, local religious minorities, women and the LGBT community.

Updating Indonesia’s criminal code has been in process for over two decades and was reintroduced once more in 2015. The code would replace Dutch colonial law which dates back 100 years ago. However, for a law that is a century old it manages to pale in comparison to the new draft.

Shift Towards Fundamentalism?

As a country that holds the largest Muslim population in the world, religion is sure to make an impact on culture and even politics. However, since President Joko Widodo’s re-election many rights groups have said that there has been a religious crackdown particularly on women and the LGBT community.

Many have said that Widodo sided with hard-line religious groups to win favour during his campaign, and while the President has denied it and continues to claim that Islam in the country is ‘tolerant’, his running mate is a cleric that believes homosexuality should be criminalised and believes in Sharia law. Other high-ranking officials and ministers have also been pushing anti-LGBT rhetoric and this crackdown has led to several arrests on suspicion of sexuality. Widodo hasn’t done his part in protecting minority communities and it doesn’t seem like he has any plans to.

Photo Credit: Time Magazine

Aisha Mohamed