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'We should do something or the island will be empty': Criminal Code threatens Bali tourism 

Ni Komang Erviani

The Jakarta Post

Bali  /  Wed, September 25, 2019  /  08:54 pm
'We should do something or the island will be empty': Criminal Code threatens Bali tourismĀ 

Pura Ulun Danu Beratan temple in Bali. (Shutterstock.com/Pelikh Alexey)

Protests against the passage of a number of controversial bills into law continued on Tuesday with thousands of university students from across Indonesia gathered in front of the House of Representatives compound in Central Jakarta since 1 p.m.

Among the controversial bills is the Criminal Code (KUHP) bill, in which several articles aim to regulate morality by criminalizing, among other things, consensual sex between an unmarried couple, cohabitation, abortion and the promotion of contraception.

Read also: House agrees to postpone four problematic bills, including revised KUHP

Amid the controversy, Australian media has been reporting on concerns over the impact of the "sex ban" bill on Australian tourists to Bali, whose numbers reach around 1 million per year. 

The Australian government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also mentioned the Criminal Code in its latest official advice for its citizens traveling to Indonesia on the smartraveller.gov.au website.

"The Indonesian parliament is in the process of passing a revised Criminal Code. The Code will not enter into force until two years after it has been passed," read the page on Indonesia subtitled as "Laws: Revised Criminal Code" on the website. 

"A large number of laws may change and these will also apply to foreign residents and visitors, including tourists. Among others, these may prohibit: adultery or sex outside of marriage, encompassing all same-sex sexual relations, with charges only proceeding following a complaint by a spouse, child or parent; cohabitation outside of marriage, with charges only proceeding following a complaint by a spouse, child or parent; 'indecent acts' carried out in public, by force or published; insulting the president, vice president, religion, state institutions and symbols (such as, the flag and national anthem); subverting the national ideology Pancasila. The death penalty will be retained for a range of crimes," it added.

Overall, the department advised Australians to "exercise a high degree of caution" when visiting Indonesia.

Following these developments, Bali Tourism Board chairman Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana told a press conference held on the island on Monday that Australian tourists were found to have moved away from Bali and chosen to vacation in Thailand instead. 

"We should do something or the island will be empty this October, November and December,” he added.

Agung Partha said the threat of prison time for unmarried couples was among the most concerning issues for young Australian couples. He also worried that it would be used by competitors to lure visitors away from Bali.

“When talking about Bali, we are not talking about competing with other regions. Bali is in head-to-head competition with other countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and others. That’s a fact. And the Australian market is being contested,” he said.

Bali Deputy Governor Tjokorda "Cok Ace" Oka Artha Ardhana said the reports made by Australian news outlets didn’t reveal the details of the matter. 

"I can guarantee that unmarried couple will face no jail time, as long as there is no complaint from their husband, wife, child or parents,” said Cok Ace.

Read also: Things you should know before visiting temples in Bali

Article 419 of the revised Criminal Code bill states in Subsection 1 that unmarried couples caught living together could face a maximum of six months in prison. In Subsection 2, it states that the crime must be reported by a husband, wife, parent or child. Meanwhile, in Subsection 3, it states that village leaders could lodge a complaint if there has been no complaint filed by a husband, wife, parent or child.

"So, basically, they could not be jailed unless their wife, husband, parent or child lodges a complaint or reports them to the police,” said Cok Ace, who is also chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association’s (PHRI) Bali chapter.

Cok Ace added that such matter was actually not new in Indonesia. 

"The existing Criminal Code already regulates adultery, which could send someone to jail upon a complaint from a wife or husband. It has been implemented in Indonesia for decades. The revised version, however, adds that parents and children could also lodge a complaint. That’s the only new thing,” he said.

Cok Ace said the news doesn’t really explain the conditions that could send unmarried couples to prison.

“It's not an easy [thing to do],” he emphasized.

The Bali administration itself has issued an official statement on the matter, stating that the revised Criminal Code was only a draft and hasn’t been imposed. It added that the President and the House of Representative have agreed to delay the passage of the revised bill.

“Therefore, tourists and tourism practitioners are advised to stay calm and keep doing their activities. This statement was made to avoid the confusion that could disturb tourism in Bali."

Bali’s tourism stakeholders will reportedly also ask the House to delay the revised Criminal Code from passing it into law before a comprehensive public awareness campaign is conducted.

"They need to conduct a dissemination campaign as much as they can, so the public could understand all the points in the revised draft,” Cok Ace said.

Additionally, tourism businesses also demanded the elimination of some articles, including Article 419 on consensual premarital sex.

“We think it has gone too far [as it] interferes with people’s private lives,” he emphasized. (kes)

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