YOUth should know: 5 things about Indonesia’s new laws on cohabitation and premarital sex

The laws will officially take effect in 2025.

Tricia Kuan

A tiny coffee addict with a really weird frog obsession.

Published: 9 December 2022, 3:13 PM

What comes to mind when you think of Indonesia may be its many islands – which are ideal tourist destinations when you’re in need of relaxation or a quick getaway.

However, many outside the country expressed concern when Indonesia’s parliament approved a new criminal code on Tuesday (Dec 6) criminalising cohabitation and premarital sex. This would not only apply to locals but to foreign expats and tourists in the country as well.

If you’re planning a trip to Indonesia with your significant other, here are five things you should know about Indonesia’s new laws and how it will impact tourists moving forward:

1. What is Indonesia’s new criminal code?

Under the new criminal code, people who have sex or live together outside of marriage can be reported to the police. However, only parents, spouses, or children of those who break the law can make the report to authorities. 

The punishment for premartial sex is a maximum of one year in jail or a Rp10 million (S$800), whereas cohabitation is punishable by six months of imprisonment or a Rp10 million fine.

2. When will the new laws take place?

The laws will not take effect immediately. There will be a three-year transitional period, during which the government will draft the implementing regulation before the laws will fully take place in 2025.

3. Who will be affected by these new laws?

Indonesian locals, foreign expats and tourists can be reported for breaching the new laws when they are in effect. 

As the Indonesian government does not recognise same-sex marriages, sexual activity in LGBTQ relationships would also be considered extra-marital.

4. How will the laws be enforced?

Indonesia’s Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej said that authorities would not carry out raids, but would only act if they receive reports about individuals breaking the law. 

The criminal code also recognises “living laws”, meaning that local governments in Indonesia’s 34 provinces can enact their own laws based on the criminal code.

5. Will tourists be affected?

Dr Edward said that foreign tourists in Indonesia are unlikely to be prosecuted under the country’s new criminal law. He reasoned that only the parents, spouses and children of suspected offenders can file a police report, making it highly impossible for foreigners to be face criminal action.

Several representatives have come forward to assure tourists that they will not be enforcing the law strictly in Bali.

According to Bali’s tourism chief Tjokorda Bagus Pemayun in an interview with CNA, travellers will have no reason to worry. 

Various hotel and tourism associations in Bali have come to the consensus that hotels will not ask tourists for documents detailing their marital status, and that tourists will be treated as they are now.

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