National

Porn law discussed in judicial
review

Six experts presented their objections to the content of Law No. 44/2008 on pornography in a hearing at the Constitutional Court on Wednesday.

The experts representing three civil society groups said the articles in the law had imposed restrictions on the nation’s diverse cultures, drawn unclear definitions of morality in society and violated freedom of expression.

They also said the law had restricted an individuals’ right to information, express themselves and embrace their own faiths.

The six experts are Eduard P Heydemans, Efendy W Parengkuan, Prof. J.E. Sahetapy, Prof. Agnes Widarti, Prof. Sulistyowati Irianto Suwarno and Prof. Soetandyo Wignjosoebroto.

The plaintiffs are a collective from Minahasa, North Sulawesi, who share common interests and concerns over the law. The advocacy team from the group Unity in Diversity are representing a number of activists and individuals from the arts sector.

They have asked the Court to review Articles 1, 4, 20 and 21 of the pornography law which regulate how citizens should behave and dress.

“We all agree pornography has to be eradicated. This must first be made clear because there has been a misinterpretation that those against the pornography law are in fact supporting pornography,” said Professor Sulistyowati.

She said that from a legal anthropology view, the big question is whether pornography can be derived from the fashion styles of men and women. The pornography law places emphasis on morality problems in society, she said, but does not protect women and children from the distribution of pornographic material.

Sahetapy, a professor of law at the Airlangga University in Surabaya, said if the law was constructed or used to coercively impose restrictions on certain cultures or ethnicities, it would be far more destructive than initially thought.

“It could be used to deplete certain people from their cultural rights and freedoms.”

Heydemans, a descendent of a Minahasa tribal chief who wears Minahasa tribal attire, demonstrated a traditional dance of Mak Engket from the North Sulawesi region that he said could be interpreted as sexually arousing by certain groups of people. This misconstrued meaning, he said, was very disturbing to the Minahasa people.

OC Kaligis, a senior law practitioner, said Minahasa would likely establish its own state if the pornography law was not revoked.

Also attending the hearing were seven officials representing the government.

The law has been brought before the Court eight months after it was endorsed by the House of Representatives in a plenary session in October 2008. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prosperous Peace Party (PDS) walked out in protest.

Widarti said the pornography law did not protect women or invoke gender equality, but instead was discriminative. This was contradictory to article 27 of the Constitution which protects women and article 28 which articulates gender perspectives.

Kamala Chandrakirana, chairwoman of the National Commis-sion on Women’s Rights, said the country already had a Law on Child Protection.

“The pornography law fails to offer protection to women and children.”

Kamala said the removing this law would not change the state’s approach to pornography because there were already several laws restricting it. (iwp)

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.