Last edited: December 24, 2004

Indonesian Lawmakers Seek Gay Sex Ban

The Advocate, October 1, 2003

Gay sex will soon become a crime in Indonesia if the justice ministry has its way, a ministry spokesman told Agence France-Presse. The ministry is drafting an amendment to the country’s criminal code to include acts not currently categorized as crimes but considered morally unacceptable, including gay sex, cohabitation, oral sex, extramarital and nonmarital sex, and sorcery aimed at hurting other people, spokesman Sukartono Supangat said. “It’s still in its early stage,” he added. “We’re still collecting input from various parties and experts.” In addition to Dutch colonial law, the proposed amended criminal code will also adopt Islamic law, international conventions, and tribal laws, Supangat said. The draft, which is still being debated, proposes that a couple found guilty of cohabitation receive punishment of up to two years in jail. A man who impregnates a woman but refuses to marry her could spend a maximum five years in prison. Sodomy and oral sex would be punishable by three to 12 years in jail, and gay sex would be punishable by one to seven years. A “witch doctor” or his client found guilty of using black magic to hurt other people could spend up to five years in jail. Ministry experts are still debating ways to obtain evidence of such acts.

Indonesian lawyers on Tuesday criticized the government’s plan. Gayus Lumbuun, chairman of the Indonesian Bar Association, was quoted by Kompas newspaper as saying the state should not interfere in citizens’ sexual behavior. “I need to make it clear that all criminal offenses are ethical offenses, but not all ethical and moral offenses are crimes,” Lumbuun said. Suhardi Somomoeljon, secretary-general of the Indonesian Lawyers Association, warned that some people could take the law into their own hands if the plan were adopted: “If cohabitation becomes a crime, it will be a pretext for people who have a holier-than-thou attitude to raid other people. This is dangerous.”

The ministry’s move is apparently in response to demands by some Muslim groups and political parties for the introduction of Islamic law. The current criminal code is a collection of laws mostly adopted from the Dutch colonial era. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country. But Islam is not the state religion, and the country in general practices a tolerant version of the faith.

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