Indonesia seeks to ease tourism fears over new sex law

Indonesian officials on Monday downplayed concerns over a new law criminalizing sex outside marriage, saying foreign tourists would not be charged as fears grew over the impact on vital tourism.

Last week, the Southeast Asian country’s parliament passed a law approving prison terms of up to a year for anyone in Indonesia caught having sex outside of marriage.

The cohabitation of unmarried couples can also be punished with six months in prison.

READ ALSO: Indonesia’s sex laws ‘nail in the coffin’ for LGBTQ rights

Businesses have expressed concern that the radical overhaul of the penal code will harm tourism in Indonesia, which received more than 16 million visitors in 2019.

But Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej dismissed those concerns on Monday, saying the foreigners would not be prosecuted.

“I want to emphasize for foreign tourists, please come to Indonesia because you will not be charged for this item,” Hiariej told reporters.

He said cohabitation and extramarital sex offenses would only be prosecuted if reported by a spouse, parent or child, while adultery had already been illegal for years under the previous penal code.

In the vacation spot of Bali, Governor Wayan Koster also tried to ease fears about the law, saying local authorities would not check the marital status of tourists.

READ ALSO: Indonesian parliament approves ban on sex outside marriage

It said in a statement that Bali would not make any “policy changes” related to the new penal code.

“Bali is Bali as usual, which is comfortable and safe to visit,” Koster said.

“There will be no marital status checks at the entrance to any tourist accommodation … or inspections by public officials or community groups.”

The new penal code still needs to be approved by President Joko Widodo and will not take effect for three years.

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