The Indonesian Sex Before Marriage Law – Your Questions Answered

Indonesia has recently approved a new law that puts restrictions on sex outside of marriage. But what will the law mean for tourists and what has the response been in Indonesia? We answer all your questions below.

What does the law ban?

Indonesia already had a law in place that bans adultery. This new law is a revision of the existing one and will ban all sex outside of marriage. Cohabitation between unmarried couples will also be banned.

When will the law come into effect?

The new criminal code was approved by the Indonesian parliament in December 2022, but the law is not expected to come into force until 2025. This allows time for the regulations to be drafted and put into place.

Does the law apply to tourists?

Whilst the law would technically apply to tourists, the Governor or Bali, Wayan Koster, has said that authorities will not check the marriage status of tourists who visit Indonesia. So, couples who are not married should not be put off visiting the country.

However, it is thought that unmarried couples booking a hotel room or other type of accommodation could find it more difficult after the law is put in place. 

As the law does not come into effect until 2025, any tourists who have already booked or are planning to take a trip to Indonesia before then should not face any problems.

What’s the punishment for breaking the law?

Those that are found to have had sex outside of marriage will face one year in prison. Any couples that are found to be living together that aren’t married could go to jail for up to six months.

The offences can only be reported by certain people, including a spouse, parent, or child of the suspected offender. This is another reason why it’s thought that tourists will be unaffected by the law, as it is unlikely that the necessary person will report them to the authorities.

Will the law affect tourism to Indonesia?

As the law does not come into full effect until 2025, it’s difficult to see exactly how it will affect tourism to Indonesia. Bali is the tourism centre of Indonesia and it’s estimated that the island will see around six million visitors a year by 2025.

Other countries that have had similar laws have been known to be lenient to tourists. Morocco had a rule in place that required a marriage certificate to allow accommodation to be booked for a couple. However, in practice, tourists were rarely asked to provide documentation.

The UAE also had strict laws around sex outside of marriage. However, in January 2022, they reversed their law, decriminalizing sex outside of marriage and allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate. It’s thought that the reasoning behind this was to encourage tourism and visitors, especially as a way to bolster the tourism industry after COVID-19.

Only time will tell if tourists are put off visiting Indonesia after 2025 when the law is implemented, or if it will become clear that tourists will not be affected.

What do Indonesian locals think of the law?

The response to the new law by Indonesian locals has been mixed. The law has actually been discussed for years and was almost implemented in 2019. However, due to widespread protests, it was delayed.

Representatives from the Indonesian tourist board have voiced their negative opinion on the law, saying it is “counter-productive” at a time when tourism should be recovering after the pandemic.

However, some Indonesian officials cite the law as a move away from the original Dutch colonial laws that are “no longer relevant”. Some Islamic groups in Indonesia have also shown support for the new bill and have encouraged more conservative laws.

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