Indonesia Mulls Criminalising Unmarried Cohabiting Couples


Indonesia is deliberating criminalizing unmarried couples living together and lengthening jail terms for adulterers, a lawmaker said Friday, in plans that activists have dubbed regressive.

The proposals were drafted by the Justice and Human Rights Ministry as the House of Representatives revises the nation's dated criminal code, garnering support from several members.

"If couples are living in one home and aren't married, of course they should be sanctioned," Khatibul Umam Wiranu, a member of the commission overseeing the revision, told Agence France Presse.

"In my opinion, adultery is the root of many social problems."

The proposed revision would raise the maximum jail term for adultery from nine months' jail -- considered "too light" by the ministry -- to 30 months, while couples living together outside marriage could face five years.

Rights activists said elements of the 500-page draft revision were politically motivated, aimed at winning votes of key conservative demographics ahead of legislative elections next year.

"We've seen this before when the parliament passed the anti-pornography law to appease conservatives ahead of the last elections," Haris Azhar of the prominent rights groups Kontras said.

Cohabitation of unmarried couples is generally frowned upon in Indonesia, Azhar said, though such cases were becoming more common.

"If there are moral concerns about it, they should be addressed maturely and peacefully in the community, not through the law," Azhar said, adding that jailing Indonesians for such cases was extreme.

The draft also includes an article to ban "black magic" that causes death or suffering, carrying a sentence of five years in prison.

Claiming to possess the powers of black magic would also be a criminal offence, while "white magic", or good magic, would remain legal.

Sandrayati Moniaga of the National Human Rights Commission said laws on morality were unnecessary and that the state should not intervene in people's personal affairs.

"It's none of the government's business, it's each person's business with God and their partner," she said. "Adultery and cohabiting are personal problems."

The parliament has long promised to update Indonesia's criminal code, drafted in 1918 based on Dutch law and last updated in 1958.

The current code criminalizes theft of anything above 250 rupiah (three cents), punishable by a maximum sentence of five years' jail or a fine of just 900 rupiah.

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