News / Asia

Proposals to Update Indonesia’s Criminal Code Stir Controversy

Kate Lamb
As part of sweeping plans to modernize Indonesia’s Criminal Code, the government has announced plans to outlaw adultery, cohabiting couples and so-called “black magic.” Civil society groups agree a revision is necessary, but say the proposed overhaul is not only out of date, but out of touch.

Indonesia’s Criminal Code, a legacy from Dutch colonial times, has long warranted revision.

Civil society groups have campaigned for years for changes such as including a formal recognition of human rights. But some say the government’s proposed changes - including five years in jail for convicted adulterers, witches and sorcerers - are more medieval than modern.

Febionista, director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, says the changes will not only be difficult to apply but contradict the government’s international commitment to human rights.

“It will be counterproductive to the government commitment to uphold human rights," he said. "The provision proposed by the state regarding adultery, black magic, it is somehow influenced by moral failures, especially certain religions. It cannot necessarily be adopted if it doesn't apply universally.”

Despite the criticism, officials from the Justice and Human Rights Ministry who drafted the changes have defended them as necessary to curb offenses such as adultery.

But Febionista says they are another sign of how Islam is playing an increasing role in Indonesian politics, and warns more puritanical legislation could be adopted in the future.

He also pointed to the proposed inclusion of new blasphemy and libel laws that he argued could endanger freedom of expression. And the inclusion of laws against black magic, which could be confused with traditional practices beliefs.

Civil society networks expect the plans will generate heated public debate.

Others, such as Zainaul Abidin from the Indonesian Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy, agree the code should be revised but not now.

“It is better to discuss it after the election with the new members of parliament and also the new government. Hopefully we will have good and strong government that understands human rights,” Abidin said.

Indonesia’s Criminal Code was last revised 49 years ago.

Plans to discuss the current revision will start on March 18, but it is not likely to be passed before the next election.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid