Saturday , October 16 2021

Protests against sex outside marriage bill rock Indonesia

Jakarta, Sep 25 (IANS) Dozens of Indonesian students on Wednesday again took to the streets in Jakarta against a controversial draft criminal code that would criminalise sex outside marriage, a day after over 300 people were injured in clashes between protesters and police.

The students gathered in front of the House of Representatives to protest against the most comprehensive revision of the Indonesian Penal Code since it was introduced in 1918 during the Dutch colonial administration.

On Tuesday, demonstrations turned violent as police clashed with protesters wearing hoodies and masks.

The protesters demanding the withdrawal of the draft code allegedly burned and damaged public property, before the police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them. At least 94 suspects were arrested.

A total of 265 students and 39 police officers received injuries of varying degrees during the protests on Tuesday, Jakarta police chief Gatot Eddy Pramono was quoted as saying by Efe news.

The revision has prompted protests from activists and human rights groups, and a campaign that gathered more than 300,000 signatures to a petition addressed to President Joko Widodo to stop it.

The dissidents argue that the new code would severely curtail civil and individual freedoms in Indonesia – with one of the articles banning criticism of the President and Vice President – apart from undermining the powers of the popular Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

President Widodo has acknowledged four of the total 628 articles of the bill as controversial and on Friday announced that it will not be approved until the next term of parliament, which begins in October.

One of the most controversial reforms in the bill is Article 417, which would make extramarital sex punishable by up to one year in jail, while article 419 stipulates a six-month prison sentence for couples who live together without being married.

According to Human Rights Watch, these and other articles “could be used to target LGBT people”.

Other controversial articles of the new penal code ban the dissemination of information about contraception, criminalize abortion and expand the blasphemy law, passed in 1965.

Article 118 of the bill would impose sentences of up to four years in prison on anyone found “spreading Marxist-Leninist ideologies” and Article 119 would entail sentences of 10 years in jail for leaders of organisations following such ideologies.

With 88 per cent of its 265-million population being Muslims, Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

Islam has been traditionally moderate in the country, but radical Islamists have become increasingly vocal and influential in recent years.

The anti-Communist legislation is a legacy of the dictatorship of General Suharto, who ruled the country between 1965 and 1998.

During the first two years of his dictatorship, at the height of the Cold War, more than 500,000 communists, as well as alleged communists and sympathizers, were murdered in massacres allegedly orchestrated by the military and supported by the US.



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