News this week that Indonesia’s parliament has voted to ban all sex outside marriage as part of changes to its penal code has been met with disbelief by the international community, with commentators wondering what it might be. mean for the tourism industry. Under new laws due to come into force in three years, adultery could be punished by up to a year in prison and living together outside marriage by six months.
Informally called “Bali Bonk Ban” by some Down Under media outlets, the law applies to anyone in the country, but prosecution can only proceed once a complaint has been filed with the Indonesian police by a parent, spouse or child. The stipulation should limit the number of vacationers who directly break the law, but industry insiders fear a political shift away from tolerance will mean hotspots such as Bali (where tourism typically accounts for 80% of the economy and where pandemic-related restrictions have had a huge effect) will lose their appeal.
Lee Cobaj, who writes about Southeast Asia for The Telegraph, said: “It really feels like a step backwards for Indonesia which has tried to portray itself as a progressive, business-friendly and tourist-friendly destination. . The mere possibility of a single visitor ending up in jail for sleeping with their partner – or anyone for that matter – is going to be extremely damaging to the country’s reputation and sure to put travelers off.
The Telegraph saw a message from Bali Tourism Promotion which clarified that “each province can enforce its own laws based on the code” but that “new laws could become controversial in Bali, given the island’s reliance on tourism”.
Meanwhile, an expert who has written extensively on the island told us: “As tourism is what drives Bali’s economy, I’m sure the key players will work hard to ensure that the new law has little impact on the island. Over the years there have been announcements and rumors of various punitive laws in Indonesia that are first newsworthy – for example an alcohol ban in 2015 and a possible bikini ban around 2018 – but these are dissipating and coming to life, in Bali’s tourist sector anyway, carry on as usual.
But even if tourists remain largely spared, the law may impact the more than 100,000 expats who call the island home, and it could have profound implications for the LGBT community (gay marriage is not recognized in Indonesia, so all same-sex relationships will, in effect, be outlawed when it comes into effect).
In a statement, Amnesty International’s Executive Director for Indonesia, Usman Hamid, said: “Prohibiting sex outside of marriage is a violation of the right to privacy protected under international law. Such “morality” provisions could even potentially be misused to criminalize victims of sexual assault or to target members of the LGBT community. Consensual sex should not be treated as a criminal offense or a violation of “morals”.
Other changes to the code underscore a move towards a more conservative future. It will be illegal to insult the president, demonstrate without permission, or persuade someone to become an unbeliever. Human Rights Watch called the changes “disastrous for rights” and its senior Indonesia researcher, Andres Harsano, added, “All of a sudden, the human rights situation in Indonesia has dramatically changed. aggravated, with potentially millions of people in Indonesia facing criminal charges. under this deeply flawed law.
Four More Places Where Adultery Is Illegal
Indonesia isn’t the only place where sex outside of marriage could land you in hot water. These other countries are among a handful of countries that have also legislated on the relationship:
Sex outside marriage is illegal in Morocco and adultery is punishable by up to two years in prison, but the law is generally only enforceable if a spouse files a complaint with the police. However, according to the Sexual Rights Database: “If one of the spouses is outside Morocco, the adulterous spouse (of public notoriety) may be prosecuted ex officio on the initiative of the prosecutor. Additionally, the country’s penal code allows spouses who beat or murder their other halves after finding them. in the act.
The laws of the country have an impact on tourists. The FCDO advises: “It is not uncommon for hotels to ask couples to show proof of marriage at check-in and, if such proof is not available, to insist on separate rooms.” Meanwhile, homosexuality is also a criminal offence, with the FCDO warning that “complaints may result in prosecution”.
United Arab Emirates
In 2016, a Briton on vacation in Dubai was charged with having extramarital sex after she said she was raped by two men and prosecutors concluded the act was consensual (charges were later dropped).
Recently, however, the Emirates decriminalized premarital sex as well as cohabitation without marriage. The FCDO notice states that “consensual sex between a man and a woman outside of marriage when both are over the age of 18, including extramarital sex, is generally permitted under UAE law.” However, he adds that if a spouse, parent or guardian files a criminal complaint, adultery could still result in a prison sentence of at least six months. Meanwhile, “all homosexual intercourse is illegal”.
Ahead of the World Cup, Qatar clarified its ban on sex between unmarried people, which carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison. Human Rights Watch states that Muslims could also face flogging if unmarried or the death penalty if married and, according to the FCDO, intimacy in public can also lead to arrest. Meanwhile, in November 2022, it was widely reported that Fifa sent a directive to police stating that victims of rape and sexual assault should not be arrested during the tournament.
Although the law is unenforced and possibly even unconstitutional, adultery is still illegal in 16 US states – possibly due to apathy towards efforts to change the law. In 2012, law professor Melissa Murray told the New York Times, “It’s an open question whether adultery continues to be viable as a criminal law… Nobody’s going to jail for it. But it is used in divorce and custody cases and even in some employment cases. In 2018, a North Carolina man was ordered to pay $8.8 million in damages to another man with whom he had an affair with the woman.