Earlier this week, we found out that Indonesia would finally be doing something about all the out-of-wedlock sex and black magic that its citizens are enjoying, probably simultaneously, since a proper, married household hardly seems like the place for the occult. A new criminal code currently making the legislative rounds would ban, among other things, sex between unmarried people, black magic, and (wait for it) criticizing the government too harshly for wasting time writing laws about black magic.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the new 202-page criminal code signals a shift in a far more restrictive direction for the already conservative Muslim country. Religious conservatives in Indonesia are gaining influence, despite the country’s reputation as a relatively (and we’re using that word pretty liberally) accepting society. Including the more risible bans on sex between unmarried people and black magic (both of which are legal under the current law code), the new code would also make wiretapping — of the sort used in independent anticorruption investigations targeting lawmakers — far more difficult.
Social progress, unfortunately, is a tricky game, made trickier in Indonesia’s case by the fact that the country is still operating under a criminal code dating back to its time as a Dutch colony. Although new ad hoc laws have popped up since 1945 to address the country’s shifting demographics and social values, none of those changes have been formally incorporated into a criminal code. So, in wanting to distance their country from the colonial period, Indonesian politicians have potentially opened the doors to adopting the sorts of social restrictions citizens in other ultra-conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia face. The maximum prison sentence, for example, that a person would face for adultery would rise from nine months to five years.
Critics of the conservative pivot argue that stricter laws against adultery, for instance, point to a “lack of conceptual focus” behind these changes to the Indonesian criminal code, and although they signal the creeping influence of religious conservativism, the laws don’t necessarily reflect broad social values.
Image via Getty, Ulet Ifansasti