Indonesia has passed a controversial new criminal code that includes outlawing premarital sex and cohabitation, in changes that critics contend could undermine freedoms in the Southeast Asian nation.

The new laws apply to both Indonesians and foreigners and also restore a ban on insulting the president, state institutions, or Indonesia’s national ideology known as Pancasila.

The new criminal code, which was unanimously approved by parliament, replaces a framework that had been in place since Indonesia’s independence in 1946.

“We have tried our best to accommodate the important issues and different opinions which were debated. However, it is time for us to make a historical decision on the penal code amendment and to leave the colonial criminal code we inherited behind,” Yasonna Laoly, minister of law and human rights, told parliament ahead of the vote, the Independent reported.

The proposed new law sparked student-led protests when a full draft was released in September 2019, amid fears it would curtail personal freedoms. At least 300 people were hurt in the unrest, which was also fueled by concerns that new laws would undermine the fight against corruption.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has seen an increase in religious conservatism in recent years. Strict Islamic laws are already in place in parts of the country, including the semi-autonomous Aceh province, where alcohol and gambling are prohibited. Public floggings are also practised in the region for a variety of offences, including homosexuality and adultery.

A previous draft of the code was scheduled to be passed in 2019, but was postponed due to widespread protests, prompting Indonesian President Joko Widodo to intervene.


India today