Headlines

Porn bill passed despite
protests

MORALITY OR POLITICS: Members of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prosperous Peace Party (FDS), who opposed the controversial bill, leave the assembly room before the vote. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)
MORALITY OR POLITICS: Members of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prosperous Peace Party (FDS), who opposed the controversial bill, leave the assembly room before the vote. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the contentious anti-pornography bill, defying months of protest from artists, pluralists and human rights groups.

Two of 10 factions in the House, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS), boycotted a plenary session to endorse the modified bill that criminalizes all works and acts deemed obscene and capable of breaching public morality.

The passage of the bill was quickly slammed by human rights and pluralist organizations, as well as several provinces opposed to it.

They claim the law threatens national unity, discriminates against minority groups and women, and harms pluralism and diversity in the country.

Just minutes after the plenary session opened, PDI-P and PDS legislators interrupted the forum and subsequently walked out of the House in protest at the bill.

Also boycotting the session were two Balinese legislators from the Golkar Party, Lisnawati Karna and Gede Sumarjaya Linggih. They each interrupted the meeting and walked out of the room while their party read out its approval of the bill.

“We agree we must protect our nation from pornography, but we can’t accept the substance of this bill. Thus we are not responsible for it,” PDI-P faction chairman Tjahjo Kumolo said after leaving the session.

Carol Daniel Kadang of the PDS said the House was in too much of a hurry to pass the bill and that procedurally it should have consulted first with each province rejecting the bill.

Women in Muslim attire cheer shortly after members of the House of Representatives vote by an overwhelming majority to pass the anti-pornography bill during a plenary session in Jakarta on Thursday. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

Women in Muslim attire cheer shortly after members of the House of Representatives vote by an overwhelming majority to pass the anti-pornography bill during a plenary session in Jakarta on Thursday. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

Hundreds of spectators, mainly supporters of the bill, gave the session an air of religious fervor. Along with several legislators, they clapped and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), each time a legislator voiced support for the passage of the bill.

As House Speaker Agung Laksono banged his gavel to officially pass the bill into law, they clapped and shouted even louder.

“This is what we need to fight pornography. This law will complete our legal system to protect us from pornographic materials,” Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni said.

People’s Consultative Assembly chairman Hidayat Nur Wahid, a member of the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) that championed the bill, said the law would not discriminate against any section of society.

Nor will it spark violence, he added in all sincerity.

The bill’s opponents say its approval smacks of political machinations ahead of the 2009 elections, most likely to boost support among the predominantly Muslim voter base for the parties backing the bill.

“This (bill) only shows that the House and the government have politicized morality and religion and are just using them as a means of retaining power,” National Commission for Women’s Protection chairwoman Kamala Chandrakirana said in a statement.

Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika and North Sulawesi Governor SH Sarundajang, ardent opponents of the bill, vowed to continue opposing the new law.

“We will continue opposing the porn law because this has been our stance from the very beginning,” Pastika told reporters in Denpasar.

Contentious articles in the porn bill:

1. Article 1: Definition
Pornography is drawings, sketches, illustrations, photographs, texts, voices, sound, moving pictures, animations, cartoons, poetry, conversations, gestures, or other forms of communicative messages through various kinds of media; and/or performances in front of the public, which may incite obscenity, sexual exploitation and/or violate moral ethics in the community.
Feared impact:
The definition is open to all kinds of interpretation, such as how to define gestures that incite obscenity or sexual exploitation, and will be subject to debate.

2. Articles 20-23: Public Participation
The public can play a role in preventing the production, distribution and use of pornography...by...(d) supervising people on the danger of pornography.
Feared impact:
This article could be used by certain groups to take the law into their own hands by attacking people they believe are violating the law.

3. Articles 8, 34, 36: Criminalization of victims
The articles threatens up to 10 years in prison or Rp 5 billion in fines for violators of the law.
Feared impact:
Artists or models in art shows or productions could be punished for their creativity.

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