Activists are growing concerned about an ongoing reform of Indonesia’s penal code that could ban gay sex and criminalize insulting the government.
The bill has not been made public, but the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights confirmed on Wednesday that it includes a provision on insulting the government. A lawmaker said last month that the bill would ban sex outside of marriage, including same-sex behavior.
The National Alliance for Penal Code Reform, representing several rights groups, accused the government of pushing for passage of the bill without soliciting enough public comment.
“The alliance calls on President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s administration and the House of Representatives to hold open discussions on the bill and not pass it without meaningful public participation,” the alliance said in a statement. a statement.
The administration identified 14 items for discussion due to public concern, but the alliance said its objections went beyond those items.
“The Alliance believes that more than 14 articles are problematic, but these have not been discussed by the government, especially those related to freedom of expression and opinion,” the statement said.
Areas of concern include penalties for insulting public authorities and state institutions online, a part of the bill that could overlap with the Electronic Information and Transactions Act, already seen as draconian, the official said. band.
Members of the alliance met with Deputy Minister for Law and Human Rights Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej on Thursday to discuss their concerns, but he declined to reveal the latest version of the bill, saying that there were typographical errors, according to Julius Ibrani, president of the Indonesian Legal Aid Association.
“We agreed to come as long as they show the draft. They accepted, but at the meeting they refused,” he told BenarNews.
“The Deputy Minister said that it was final and that the project would be submitted to the House. “If you think there is an article that is inappropriate, please just file a legal challenge with the Constitutional Court,” Ibrani said, quoting Sharif Hiariej.
Young members of the alliance have threatened to stage larger street protests than those staged in 2019.
That year, thousands of people took to the streets in several Indonesian cities, including Jakarta, to oppose the legislation. Two students were killed in Kendari, Sulawesi, after police fired on protesters.
The government has pushed for revisions to the penal code that has been in place since 1946, arguing that the original dates back to Dutch colonial rule in the Southeast Asian country.
Sharif Hiariej, the deputy justice minister, confirmed on Wednesday that the provisions on insulting the government, punishable by up to four years in prison, would be maintained despite opposition, CNN Indonesia reported.
Last month, lawmaker Arsul Sani said there was consensus that articles criminalizing sex outside marriage, including same-sex relationships, would be included in the bill.
The bill introduced by Jokowi in 2015 provides for a prison sentence of up to two years for consensual sex outside of marriage, while an unmarried couple who live together could face six months in prison. The unmarried couple could be reported to authorities and charged, but only their parents or children could press charges.
Homosexuality and extramarital sex are not banned in Muslim-majority Indonesia, but some consider them vices. In the province of Aceh, where Islamic Sharia is in force, those found guilty could receive up to 100 strokes of the cane.
“Indonesia’s draft penal code reflects the growing influence of Islamism, as many Islamists see it as the crown jewel of what they claim to be Sharia,” said Andreas Harsono, researcher at Human Rights Watch. Indonesia, to Al Jazeera in a recent report. .
“It will be disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians,” he said.
The draft also proposes that anyone who publicly incites people to leave one of the six recognized religions in Indonesia should face up to four years in prison for religious blasphemy.
The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, a Jakarta-based human rights NGO, has urged lawmakers to review or repeal articles on religious and other blasphemy that could undermine people’s rights and individual freedoms.
Not all acts considered taboo by a religion should be criminalized, he said, adding that religious blasphemy laws were often used to target people of minority faiths.
“This lack of public consultation in the legislative process has been the source of opposition to many bills, as a lack of public participation in the legislative process could result in laws that do not meet the expectations of the people. “, said Setara.