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Bali sex ban: Indonesian woman reveals loophole on TikTok

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An Indonesian woman has taken to social media to highlight major loopholes in the country’s ban on sex outside of marriage that mean Bali tourists could still face jail time.

Makeup artist Francesca Tanmizi, who goes by the handle @workingwithmonolids on TikTok, said she was “absolutely devastated” by the passage of the law by the country’s parliament on Tuesday.

Some of the most controversial articles in the new code criminalise extramarital sex, as well as the cohabitation of unmarried couples, with punishment of up to a year in prison.

“This law also applies to tourists, so if you’re planning to go on a trip to Bali with your significant other and you’re not legally married, do reconsider because do you really want to risk jail time for a holiday?” Tanmizi said in a video that has been viewed nearly three million times.

The new laws don’t come into effect for another three years, and Indonesian officials have sought to reassure foreign tourists that they don’t need to worry because police require a complaint by a spouse, parent or child to investigate sex outside of marriage.

But experts have warned it still means added risk in a country where foreigners regularly fall afoul of local laws for a wide range of reasons.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Wednesday it was “seeking further clarity” on the changes.

“We understand these revisions will not come into force for three years, and we await further information on how the revisions will be interpreted as implementing regulations are drafted and finalised,” a spokeswoman said.

“DFAT continues to keep all our travel advisories under close review, including to regularly and carefully reassess the risks to Australians overseas and to provide the latest information. DFAT will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

In her video, Tanmizi said she was “really upset” because the laws had “serious implications for rape victims”.

“If you fail to prove that it was non-consensual you can be hit by jail time — and if you think that there is no way this law is going to be abused it absolutely will,” she said.

Woman jailed after harassment

She highlighted a 2019 case where a woman was jailed after reporting sexual harassment.

“Of course to report it she had to gather evidence, and apparently … just forwarding that evidence counted as breaking the anti-pornography laws,” she said. “That counted as ‘distributing pornography’, and she was jailed for it. So yes, this law absolutely can and will be abused.”

In that ruling, which was condemned by human rights groups, Baiq Nuril Maknun was found guilty of spreading “indecent” material” after recording and sharing a phone conversation with her boss.

The teacher had complained about getting sexually explicit phone calls from the head teacher of her school in Mataram, a city on the island of Lombok — but he reported her to police in 2015 after the recording was circulated.

The Supreme Court in 2019 rejected her appeal, finding her guilty of “violating decency”. She was sentenced to six months in prison and fined 500 million rupiah ($47,600), the BBC reported.

In another video responding to those who said they supported the law, Tanmizi stressed it would be abused.

“To everybody saying, ‘You’re married, this will protect your marriage, be happy’, well I will be devastated if my husband cheats on me but will I send him to jail for a year? No, because I’m not selfish,” she said.

“I’m not going to deprive my daughter of a father for one year. What if she’s older and hates his guts too? Oh great, then we can financially destroy him and have a bonfire with his things, but sending him to jail when there are worse crimes out there — kind of mental.”

In response to those saying not to worry because “you can only be reported by a parent, a spouse or your child”, Tanmizi pointed out there are “abusive parents out there”.

“How would an abused child get away from his or her abusive parents now?” she said.

“Because wherever they’re running away to, they better hope there’s no member of the opposite sex because their crazy parents can use this law against them. Remember, just cohabitation is apparently ‘evidence’ that you have had sex.”

She also hit out at people focusing only on the impact on foreigners.

“Comments like these going that tourists won’t get affected because they won’t have anybody reporting them — first, FU for not caring about human rights unless it affects yours,” she said.

“Second, sexual assault happens. What if you’re sexually assaulted and you can’t find a guy. Do you dare report it to the police knowing you could be ‘self-reporting’ a crime. For all the naive people who are going, ‘Oh my God surely you can tell when someone’s been raped’, no. Victims of sexual assault always have problems proving that it’s non-consensual.”

She concluded by noting that “I’m sure a lot of people like the idea of the law in theory”.

“This will protect the institution of marriage, it sounds amazing in theory,” she said.

“But let’s be realistic — it has so many opportunities of abuse. Even though I’m happily married and I don’t want my husband to cheat on me, I’m not for this law.”

‘A step back’

A revision of Indonesia’s criminal code, which stretches back to the Dutch colonial era, has been debated for decades.

Rights groups had protested against the amendments, denouncing a crackdown on civil liberties and political freedoms, as well as a shift towards fundamentalism in Muslim-majority Indonesia, where secularism is enshrined in the constitution.

“We have tried our best to accommodate the important issues and different opinions which were debated,” Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly told parliament.

“However, it is time for us to make a historical decision on the penal code amendment and to leave the colonial criminal code we inherited behind.”

At a business conference before the vote on Tuesday, US ambassador to Indonesia Sung Yong Kim said he was concerned about “morality clauses” in the criminal code that can have “negative” impact on businesses.

Previous drafts had planned to make homosexuality illegal, but this has disappeared from the final text.

But the new rules on adultery and cohabitation could also be used to “criminalise” the LGBTQ community in Indonesia said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch, as the country does not acknowledge same-sex marriage.

The new code also curtails some political rights, analysts say.

Spreading an ideology “contradictory to Pancasila” — the official ideology which stresses unity and respect for ethnic and religious minorities — will be punishable by a maximum of four years in prison.

The death sentence, largely used in Indonesia for drug crimes, will now come with a 10-year probation period, after which the sentence can be reduced to life in jail if the convict shows exemplary behaviour.

Bambang Wuryanto, head of the commission that oversaw deliberations on the text, acknowledged “this is a product by humans and hence it will never be perfect”.

But he invited critics to “file a judicial review to the constitutional court” instead of demonstrating.

Rights groups slammed the legislation as morality policing.

“The passing of the criminal code bill is clearly a step back in the protection of civil rights … particularly on the rights of freedom of expression and press freedom”, Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid told AFP.

An attempt to pass a similar draft law in 2019 brought tens of thousands onto the streets in protests which eventually forced the government to back down.

On Tuesday around a dozen protesters gathered in downtown Jakarta holding banners.

“You reapply the colonial-era law,” read one.

“Want to colonise your own tribe and blood?”

— with AFP

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