Indonesia’s new criminal code isn’t just about sex outside marriage. It endangers press and religious freedom

Indonesia’s controversial new criminal code was passed into law on Tuesday, replacing a clunky old code dating back to at least 1918. Lawmakers have tried for decades to replace it. In fact, the last time legislators tried in 2019, it triggered the largest public protests in Indonesia since the 1998 fall of former president Soeharto.

This time, politicians rushed it through at short notice, despite widespread criticism and limited opportunities for public consultation. In the end, the code passed with the support of all but two small parties.

Many of its provisions are dangerously vague and wide in their scope – “rubber provisions”, as Indonesians say – that empower the state at the expense of citizens.

The provisions that have attracted the most criticism are those that impose conservative moral values about sexuality, and those that restrict rights to freedom of expression.




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