Last week, Indonesia’s parliament passed a new law that bans anyone in the country from having extramarital sex.
The new law states that sex outside of marriage will carry a jail term of up to one year. The law will come into effect in three years.
Critics have seen the laws as a “disaster” for human rights. It’s also a potential blow to tourism and investment, especially for the island of Bali.
Since the announcement of the new law, tourists worldwide have been confused about whether it would affect them.
Australia, Indonesia’s most significant source of foreign tourists, has been waiting for clarification on whether it will affect them. If it does, tourism in Indonesia, especially Bali, would plummet.
However, Bali Governor Wayan Koster has said that visitors to the country shouldn’t worry about the ban. He said authorities will not check the marital status of those checking into tourist accommodations.
The Governor said in a statement that people could only be prosecuted following a complaint by a parent, spouse or child.
The Governor’s remarks come as Bali, a predominantly Hindu island in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, seeks to attract tourists after the COVID pandemic.
In 2019, Bali had 6.3 million visitors, and in 2021, there were only dozens.
Mr Wayan also rejected the hoax of worldwide reports stating flights and accommodations were being cancelled. He said that data from travel agents, tour and accommodation operators and airlines shows the number of expected visitors to the island had increased from December 2022 to March 2023.
Criticism Around The World
Gary Bowerman, director of Kuala Lumpur-based travel and research firm Check-in Asia, said that despite reassurances from authorities, tourism is heavily dependent on how tourists see the country.
“That’s why destinations spend millions of dollars on campaigns to promote their attractiveness and uniqueness to visitors. The new criminal code could instil a negative perception, not only for fear of personal safety but also for travellers concerned about the rights of local people,” said Bowerman.
“The important thing to remember is that tourists have choices. If they feel that the new criminal code provides reasons not to visit Indonesia, they can book elsewhere. This is not a luxury shared by local people affected by the new criminal code.”
Many groups worldwide, including the United Nations, have criticised the criminal code, arguing that it violates fundamental human rights and will harm women, religious minorities and LGBTQ people.
However, Indonesian officials maintain that the new legislation will uphold Indonesian values.
In addition to the original ban outlawing sex outside of marriage, the code also makes it a crime to insult the president, state institutions and the national flag.
With the new law coming into place in three years, will you still visit Indonesia?