03/08/2013, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Prison for adultery, out-of-wedlock relationships and witchcraft under revised Criminal Code

A 500-page reform proposal would upgrade the 1918 Code, revised in 1958. Adulterers and practitioners of black magic would get up to five years in prison. Couples living together out of wedlock would also be punished. Activists and some lawmakers see the proposed changes as an intrusion in people's private life. Now the document goes before the People's Representative Council.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Under proposed changes to Indonesia's Criminal Code, people guilty of adultery, living together outside of wedlock or engaged in black magic could be jailed for years and receive hefty fines. Harsher sentences would promote greater "morality" in public life and punish behaviour deemed "un-Islamic". Critics counter that such changes are simply another example of the state interfering in the private life of people and that they could lead to unsubstantiated legal proceedings.

The revised 500-page document is intended to modernise the 1918 Criminal Code, which was last updated in 1958. Currently, the Code lacks provisions against witchcraft or black magic but under its revised version, those found guilty of using black magic would face up to five years in jail or up to 300 million rupiah (US$ 30,000) in fines. Out of respect for tribal traditions and customs, "white", i.e. good magic would remain legal. 

The revised Criminal Code is also set to crack down on un-Islamic sexual mores, first and foremost adultery but also living together out of wedlock.

At present, common law relationships are not illegal in Indonesia, but once changes are adopted, couples could get a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Adultery is already illegal. However, under the new rules, couples could get up to five years behind bars against the current nine months.

The revised document was submitted to lawmakers on Wednesday and must pass through the People's Representative Council before it becomes law.

This is not the first time that the world's most populous Muslim nation has made the headlines because of its laws and rules. In the past, proposals to outlaw smoking, ban women from wearing jeans and prevent people from practicing yoga have proven controversial and generated criticism. This is even more so in some parts of the country, like Islamic-dominated Aceh province.

The proposed changes to the Criminal Code would have a major impact on society, giving the state the right to interfere in people's private life. At the same time, the desire to enforce greater morality would be open to abuses.

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