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Jakarta Post

EDITORIAL: Guardians of morality


    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, December 15, 2017   /   08:18 am
EDITORIAL: Guardians of morality The Constitutional Court's (MK) judge panel reads out its verdict to reject a judicial review petition aimed at outlawing premarital sex and same-sex relationships during a hearing on Dec.14. (JP/Seto Wardhana.)

The nation would be a much safer place to raise children if people could be prosecuted for consensual premarital and homosexual sex, according to supporters of the plaintiffs who sought a judicial review of the Criminal Code (KUHP). But on Thursday, the Constitutional Court (MK) rejected the request filed by members of the Family Love Alliance (AILA).

Even though the plaintiffs had raised their concerns over the safety of their children and grandchildren because of the “legal vacuum” regarding adultery and homosexual relations, we applaud the ruling that curbs the long arm of the law from reaching into the sphere of morality. That should be left to educators, parents and clerics.

There have been too many instances where various laws have been used to justify vigilante attacks on individuals accused of committing “immoral” acts, the latest incident of which involved a couple in Tangerang, Banten. The couple was beaten, stripped and paraded around the neighborhood after being accused of having premarital sex.

We disagree with the four dissenting justices out of the nine-strong panel, who said vigilantism “precisely occurs because religious values and living law in Indonesian society does not have proportional space in Indonesia’s criminal law.” Therefore, improving the law to better suit the nation’s “godly constitution” should lead to a better “legal culture,” they said.

Yet civility and restraint from committing acts of violence — clearly a crime that often takes place under the nose of the police — is missing amid the dangerous tendency to attack weaker community members in the name of morality and religion. Thursday’s ruling rightly said that even if the law clamped down on “devious behavior,” the presumably superior social order would be “artificial.”

“Building the argument that arranging social order by forcing members of society engaged in devious behavior with the threat of the law, particularly criminal law, is tantamount to stating that social order can only be established by force,” reads the 467-page verdict.

The ruling was thus a landmark in today’s battle pitting religion against state, with each side rallying to be the constitutional protection of citizens.

But justices were of the opinion that the request to “expand the definition of adultery” in the Criminal Code to all “free sex” relations among adults, should be proposed to the ongoing amendment of the Criminal Code.

The battle will thus continue at the House of Representatives, where the plaintiffs’ concerns over the dangers to the family will attract the attention of politicians eyeing the upcoming local and general elections.

Rising instances of prostitution, free sex and same sex relations, they said, have resulted in scores of unwanted pregnancies and fatal abortions.

The plaintiffs cited the abandonment of women and infants as a result of premarital sex. But apart from further marginalizing sexual minorities, criminalizing consensual sexual relations among adults carries the greater risk of dragging Indonesia closer to a theocracy.

Citizens would be hard pressed to resist powerful parties claiming divine authority, as residents in Aceh, the only province entitled to sharia bylaws, have found. Nosy relatives and neighbors are adequately effective, yet annoying, guardians of morality.