Indonesia’s constitutional court narrowly voted to reject a petition that would make sex outside of marriage a crime, though activists remain concerned that the battle will continue in parliament and elsewhere thanks to increasing conservative sentiment gaining strength throughout the country.
The petition, launched by the hardline Islamic group the Family Love Alliance, sought to expand an existing law that prevents married people from having sex with anyone besides their spouses, saying it should extend to all sex between unmarried people. Had it passed, the law would also serve as a de facto ban on homosexuality, since Indonesia does not recognize same-sex marriage.
Indonesia has seen a spike in hyper-conservatism in recent years; already, activists are preparing for the likelihood that the petition will reappear elsewhere in the state. From Reuters:
“The decision is a relief because it shows it’s possible to challenge the creeping conservatism in society,” said Dede Oetomo, a prominent gay rights activist.
“But it’s not over. There’s parliament, there are other state institutions, they can turn to education, social organisations,” he added.
The petition was voted down by a margin of 5-4, which came as a surprise to both sides. “We didn’t expect the decision to be on our side,” Naila Zakiah, an attorney for the Community Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta, told the New York Times.
Separately, a group of lawmakers are working to make homosexuality a crime by amending the criminal code, though the state already exercises those tendencies: In October, authorities arrested 58 Indonesians and foreigners at a Jakarta sauna popular with gay men, allegedly on the basis that they were violating the country’s pornography laws—loosely-defined legislation that technically prohibits depictions of sex for profit, but frequently altered as officials see fit.