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Indonesia Approves Controversial  Anti-Pornography Law


Indonesia's parliament passed a controversial anti-pornography bill which critics argue could be used against the country's minority Christian and Hindu populations and threatens the nation's tradition of tolerance and diversity. VOA correspondent Nancy-Amelia Collins has more from Jakarta.

To shouts of "Alhamdulillah" , meaning "thanks be to God" Indonesian lawmakers passed into law Thursday an anti-pornography bill which Islamist parties say is needed to save the country from immoral behavior.

The bill was first introduced in 1999 and has gone through numerous revisions amid controversyover what defines pornography.

Just recently the law was revised to allow women to wear bikinis at tourist resorts.

The new law outlaws pornographic acts and the dissemination of sexual images. Those who break the law face up to 12 years in prison.

The bill was pushed by a small group of Islamist parties who say it is needed to protect the young and raise society's moral standards.

Two opposition parties, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the Christian Prosperous and Peace Party walked out in protest when parliament passed the bill into law.

Legislator Nursjahbani Katjasungkana from the National Awakening Party says the passage of the bill may give the small but very vocal Islamic fundamentalist groups license to launch attacks, called sweepings here, on women they deem dressed inappropriately, or TV stations running "sexy" ads.

"The first fear is encroachment of the fundamentalist groups and so on because they perceive this law as tool for them to do a sweeping and so on," Nursjahbani said.

The bill has also been condemned by the country's minority Christians and Hindus as well as some tribal groups who say the law is too vague and could be used against them by Muslim hardliners.

Legislator Nursjahbani says she does not believe the law will be effective in curbing pornography.

"I don't think this law can be effective in the education of porn," Nursjahbani said. "The essence of pornography is about the message against violence, domination, and conquest. But in this definition in this law - I don't think that the message is delivered."

Indonesia has the world's largest population of Muslims. It is a secular and democratic nation that recognizes other religions and has a long tradition of tolerance and diversity.