How the law on extramarital sex will work in Bali

On December 6, 2022, the Indonesian parliament unanimously adopted a new criminal code for the country. Several days after the scandalous hearing, the first clear explanations from the country's authorities appeared. What assurances will be given to tourists and what concerns still remain for foreigners living in Indonesia?
The hotel issue is resolved.
In response to media criticism and debates on social media, officials rush to reassure potential tourists and investors. Indonesia's Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Sandiaga Uno, called on tourists not to hesitate to visit Indonesia, while Bali Governor, Wayan Koster, stated at an official public relations meeting that the privacy of tourists will be guaranteed. This was reported by the ANTARA news agency.
The head of Bali's tourism department, Tjokorda Bagus Pemayun, assured in a comment to Channel News Asia that Bali hotels will not request a marriage certificate in accordance with the new criminal code. Additionally, according to Sandiaga Uno, representatives of the hotel industry will facilitate the resolution of any potential misunderstandings.
The new law doesn't deter tourists?
Despite concerns regarding the new legislation, the number of foreigners arriving in Indonesia is increasing, as reported by Indonesia Expat. So much so that the non-tax revenue from immigration has increased to 4.2 trillion Indonesian rupiahs. This is the highest number in Indonesia's history.
"If we look at immigration data for foreigners arriving by sea, air, and land, the increase in the number of foreigners arriving in Indonesia from December 6th to 9th, 2022 (when the new law was announced - editor's note), will be significant. There is no correlation with the opinion that the adoption of the Criminal Code bill will reduce the number of tourists and investments coming to Indonesia," assured the acting director general of immigration, Vidodo Ekayana. It should be noted that travelers arriving in the last few days likely planned their trips in advance, and the law has not yet come into effect.
Will LGBT rights promotion be discontinued?
International controversy also arises regarding LGBT rights, as the US government has already announced the cancellation of the visit to Indonesia by President Biden's special envoy for LGBTQI+ rights, Jessica Stern, as reported by Bali Discovery.
Among those who objected to Stern's planned visit to Indonesia was the Deputy Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Anwar Abbas. In his written statement dated December 1st, 2022, Anwar emphasized that Indonesia does not need to host guests who seek to undermine the nation's noble religious and cultural values.
"I won't leave, but I won't get married either."
Living together in hotels is not the only concern for foreigners. We gathered several opinions from expats in relationships with Indonesians about the risks posed by the new legislation for citizens and their lives, in particular.
All respondents expressed the opinion that the panic is exaggerated, as the new laws are set to take effect only in three years, and much can change during that time.
"My first reaction was: 'Wow! How will they pass this? There were protests after the previous attempt to pass such a law. Back then, Joko Widodo canceled it.' Later, some details emerged that only relatives, immediate family members, can accuse offenders. And that the bill concerns not only relationships outside of marriage but also criticism of the president and participation in rallies.
I think the new set of laws is being adopted at the beginning of the pre-election campaign. And that's why the parliament easily approved the bill. Most likely, before the presidential elections, parliamentarians do not want to associate themselves with the pro-Islamic sentiments of the candidates. But in three years, everything can definitely change. Let's wait and see," believes Almira from Ufa, who has lived in Indonesia for almost 3 years and is dating a guy from Sulawesi.
"I don't care; I'm not married, but my parents don't care either. If they find out that I have a relationship outside of marriage, they will probably ask me to get married and be responsible. It doesn't affect me, but I certainly disagree with this law. It makes my country religious, which in practice is not true, as we have separate legislation from religion," says Fato, Almira's boyfriend.
"We've been dating for almost two years. Although we don't live together, Lingga (my boyfriend) often stays overnight at the house I rent. I'm not particularly worried because the new law states that only family members, spouses, and children can report. However, its implementation creates risks for certain categories, such as the LGBT community. These people are not allowed to legally marry in Indonesia. There is also a risk of extortion. And some people don't have the opportunity to divorce quickly - they start dating a new partner, and the ex-spouse can easily retaliate by manipulating the children. This law is in no way useful or needed. I'm not going to leave because of this, and I'll get married only if I want to. I believe that Indonesians will protest again or challenge the innovations in the constitutional court. They cannot make the country entirely Islamic because people here are too diverse," says Italian Loret, who has lived in Indonesia for over 10 years.
New loopholes for corruption and fraud, as well as housing issues
"At first, I was worried, but my boyfriend (from Jakarta) said not to worry, that, on the contrary, the law protects the rights of those who are married and being cheated on, those who get nothing in case of divorce. That's his opinion. Personally, I don't support the general panic. But on the other hand, all this policy of the state intruding into the private lives of its citizens is certainly not acceptable to me. Instead of addressing real problems, some phantom ones are being tackled. Moreover, this law will open up new opportunities for corruption. For example, bribing the police to drop a case. Of course, these will be extra money, bribes. Plus, there will be unreal opportunities for fraud. The same foreigners will come, have a romance with a local girl or guy, they sleep together, and the family files a complaint with the police. It's an ambiguous law," believes Elena from Kaliningrad, who has been living in Java for three years.
"How can it affect me? My boyfriend and I live together. When we moved in, we weren't asked for a marriage certificate. But let's say, an Indonesian who doesn't particularly want to delve into politics hears about the new law, about going to jail. He won't bother to understand, he'll demand a certificate or even forbid living together so that there's no lawlessness on his private property. Three months ago, I saw an advertisement that they raised the price for our 'kost' and demand a marriage certificate. So now we have to wait, whether they'll evict us or not. This severely limits the rights and freedoms of citizens while opening windows for bribes and corruption. If they decide to evict us, we'll have to offer to pay more, business is business," Elena believes.
Marriage in Indonesia. But on one condition
The question of marriage in Indonesia remains open, as by law, spouses must belong to the same religion. And if the religions differ, one of the prospective spouses must convert to the religion of the partner.
Anna, marrying a Balinese man, converted to Hinduism. She created a blog on Instagram (@masasina) about life in Indonesia and her marriage, where she also commented on the news about the new legislation.
"I'm already married to a Balinese man, so I can laugh about it. It wasn't funny to me at the wedding because it had traditional rituals from our village: eating the 'husband banana' and piercing the symbolic virginity made of palm leaves with a sacred dagger. Meanwhile, the priest insisted that we make appropriate sounds.
On the same wedding day, before all the ceremonies, according to the law, I converted to Hinduism. Due to the pandemic, only a couple of representatives from the Hindu Affairs Organization attended our modest wedding of 45 people (the groom's side planned for 1113 guests). The ceremony of changing religion was conducted by a priest, essentially, I just repeated the prayer acknowledging Hindu values after him. The priest tapped the documents three times with his fist, symbolizing the signature from God. This ceremony is called 'sudi wadani'.
For marrying a citizen of Indonesia who is Muslim, the process is slightly different (you just don't need to submit documents to the civil registry afterwards). In any case, having the same religion is a mandatory requirement for marriage in Indonesia. Citizens also adhere to this rule, although I have only met one couple where a Muslim converted to another religion. There is an option not to change religion if the marriage takes place in another country or at the embassy of your country, but even there it's not that simple.
I think the new set of laws is the beginning of the pre-election campaign. Just like last time, I think the emphasis of candidates may focus on pro-Islamic views of candidates: already now the country is being unfolded to the image of a Muslim state. Perhaps, to check this, it is necessary to look at the size of investments from Arab countries in the latest tour of the current president of Indonesia. The country provides millions of jobs and is seen as an energy supplier (oil-rich and GDP-rich Brunei in Southeast Asia has reserves for only 27 years)."
At the request of the respondents, some of the names in the article were changed.
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