Indonesia Walks Back On Upcoming Sex Law For Tourists

by SharonKurheg

About a week ago, the Indonesian government set the world on its ear when the country’s parliament announced plans to ban sex outside of marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail. The laws will apply not just to residents but also to foreign expats and tourists in the country. The new criminal code, set to go into effect in 2025, could also see a plethora of new laws that would potentially impose upon personal freedoms that will further criminalize abortion, LGBTQI+ relationships (including public displays of affection among same-sex couples), and unmarried couples living together.

The tourism world responded quickly and completely – Indonesia’s most popular city for tourists, Bali, which was finally getting back on its feet after the pandemic, was now a metaphoric Public Enemy #1 for any unmarried couples of the opposite sex.

Response from within the country was equally as negative.

“From our point of view as tourism industry players, this law will be very counterproductive for the tourism industry in Bali — particularly the chapters about sex and marriage,” said Putu Winastra, chairman of the country’s largest tourism group, the Association of The Indonesian Tours And Travel Agencies (ASITA).

Indonesian lawmakers apparently got the hint that such a law might not be good for tourism. So they’ve now stepped back and have confirmed that the new sex law, when it takes effect, won’t affect tourists who visit Bali.

“Based on the provisions of the new Indonesian criminal code, visitors who visit or live in Bali would not need to worry,” said Balinese governor Wayan Koster on Monday. He also that there would be “no checks on marital statuses at tourist accommodations like hotels, villas, guest houses or spas, or inspections by public officials or community groups.

“Bali is (business) as usual — comfortable and safe to visit,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming visitors with our Balinese hospitality and advise all parties not to deliver misleading statements regarding the Indonesian criminal code that might disrupt Bali tourism.”

Of course, that’s fine for tourists who happen to be straight. But tourists who identify as LGBTQI+ still won’t have the same freedoms as their straight brethren, regardless of which part of Indonesia they visit, because same sex relationships, and everything else under the LGBTQI+ umbrella is already illegal in Indonesia. To say nothing of Indonesians who will have to live under the new rules once they go into effect.

That’s pretty sad.

Y’know, I never had much interest in going to Indonesia. Under those circumstances, I still don’t. As the good blog says, Your Mileage May Vary.

Feature Photo: RawPixel

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Mak December 13, 2022 - 2:31 pm

The law might not be enforced regularly, but it puts every gay tourist and every straight tourist traveling with somebody that they’re not married to, or any tourist who hooks up with a local, at the mercy of a corrupt police force and judiciary. One would have to be a fool to go to Bali or anywhere in Indonesia to subject themselves to arbitrary persecution, when there are so many other places to go in the world.

Christian December 13, 2022 - 4:39 pm

As someone who loves Bali and has been there a number of times in the past decade, I feel it’s incumbent on me to clarify something. Bali is a primarily Hindu island in the primarily Muslim country of Indonesia. The Balinese people are kind, gracious, and deeply spiritual. They are overall extremely welcoming and nonjudgemental. If you want a hamburger on their Hindu island they won’t bat an eye. The new laws, which I disagree with, are in no way a reflection on the island of four million people out of a country of over two hundred million. The Balinese are just outnumbered so they can’t veto the law. I’m disinclined to make the Balinese pay for a law they neither chose nor want. My wife and I will almost certainly be back for our annual pilgrimage next year. I’d suggest you do the same but it looks like you already have a great trip to SE Asia lined up.

DaninMCI December 14, 2022 - 6:25 am

Indonesia has had a sex trafficking problem for years. Some of the reason behind this law is to try and slow that industry down. Poor families there usually hope to have girls instead of boys because the girls earn more in prostitution than boys earn. They have normalized a culture of kids being used by adults for pay starting at very young ages. Usually by the time they are 12 years old most have caught some disease and require extra medical care so they can continue to work. Young girls are the most sought after and usually see 4 to 6 clients per night and earn about $1,000 USD per month which is a fortune by local standards where legitimate workers usually earn around $50 a month for standard labor. Most of the pimps are women who groom the girls into the trade for a large cut of the fees.

Christian December 14, 2022 - 3:58 pm

@DANINMCI – Source? It sounds like you’re confusing Indonesia with Thailand. Muslim countries tend to be pretty vehemently against child prostitution. Indonesia’s government passed this law unanimously so a society that would act in such a concerted fashion doesn’t mesh with your scenario in any way.


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