Indonesia has confirmed that tourists will not be prosecuted under new laws banning sex outside of marriage, over fears it would destroy the country’s tourism industry.
Last week, the Southeast Asian country’s parliament passed legislation approving jail terms of up to a year for anyone caught having sex outside of wedlock, while cohabitation by unmarried couples can also be punished with six months in prison.
Officials say the law aims to uphold ‘Indonesian values’ in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
However, businesses have voiced worries over the new law, warning that it will be detrimental to tourism in Indonesia, which received more than 16 million visitors in 2019.
Indonesian officials on Monday December 12, appeared to backtrack in an attempt to ally tourism fears. Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej dismissed the concerns, saying foreigners will not be prosecuted under the new law.
‘I want to emphasise for foreign tourists, please come to Indonesia because you will not be charged with this article,’ Hiariej told reporters.
He said extra-marital sex and cohabitation offences would only be prosecuted if a spouse, parent or child reported it, while adultery had already been illegal for years under the previous criminal code.
In the holiday hotspot of Bali, Governor Wayan Koster also tried to allay fears about the law, saying local authorities would not check the marital status of tourists.
He said in a statement that Bali would not make any ‘policy changes’ related to the new criminal code.
‘Bali is Bali as usual, which is comfortable and safe to be visited,’ Koster said.
‘There will be no checks on marital status upon check-in at any tourism accommodation… nor inspections by public officials or community groups.’
Wayan also denied what he said were ‘hoax’ reports of cancellations of flights and hotel room bookings, adding that data from travel agents, tour and accommodation operators, as well as airlines, showed the number of people set to visit Bali from December 2022 to March 2023 had increased.