Indonesians protest law banning sex outside marriage

STORY: As Indonesia's parliament passes a controversial new criminal code, a couple of hundred meters outside the building, protesters have set up camp.

The country’s new criminal code ushers in a raft of laws, including banning insulting the president and expressing views that run counter to state ideology.

But among the most contentious articles are those that criminalize sex outside of marriage, punishable with up to a year in jail.

These protesters are arguing the new criminal code is a “setback” for democracy.

“The government should focus on fulfilling people’s civil rights, the economy and culture, such as job vacancies, healthcare, and etc, they should have passed laws related to that. Instead, they passed a law that is not democratic, controls our private lives, and does not take care of public matters. It is a setback for our country, which had fought for reform and now we are moving backwards.”

The laws, which include more lenient sentences for those charged with corruption, will not come into effect for three years to allow for implementing regulations to be drafted.

But it has sparked concern that it may scare away tourists and harm investment in the world's third-largest democracy.

Although legal expert Bivitri Susanti believes the law won’t be strictly enforced.

“So there are some technicalities indeed but those articles still can be threats to democracy because they are actually against the constitution, against the human rights. And at the end of the day, although maybe (the) conduct is not punished in practice, but to have such a regulation, to have such a legal framework will also create some kind of stigmatization and then also the feeling that we cannot freely criticize the government and psychologically affect the society.”

The government had planned revise the country's colonial-era criminal code in 2019 but nationwide protests halted its passage.

The morality charges have also been partially watered down from an earlier version of the bill - so people can only be reported by limited parties, such as a parent or child.

The new code will still apply to Indonesians and foreigners alike.