Indonesia’s parliament passed long-awaited amendments to its colonial-era criminal code on Tuesday.

Authorities have pushed for more than half a century to modify the country’s existing penal code, which Indonesia inherited from its former Dutch administration when it gained independence in 1949.

But the revised code, which could take up to three years before it’s fully adopted, introduces several controversial statutes that many observers believe will threaten human rights and civil liberties in the third-largest democracy and largest Muslim-majority nation in the world.

A copy of the legislation seen by TIME includes amendments that penalize insulting the country’s president and vice president, spreading fake news, having sex outside marriage, and committing religious blasphemy.

The rules will apply to locals and foreigners alike.

Many legal experts and activists decry that the changes signal a democratic backslide in the Southeast Asian nation of 276 million.


Protests against 2022.11.07


Indonesia’s parliament had planned on ratifying a new code in 2019, but some of the most controversial proposals sparked nationwide protests, and President Joko Widodo urged lawmakers to delay the process to consider public feedback.

Since then, legislators revived the bill in much the same form, though they watered down some of the draft code’s statutes that many had deemed particularly problematic.

The amended penal code includes exceptions to its ban on abortion, which is punishable by up to four years in prison, in cases of rape or life-threatening medical issues so long as the procedure happens within 14 weeks of pregnancy.

And although capital punishment will be maintained in Indonesia, despite calls for its abolition by human rights advocates, the new penal code calls for those sentenced to the death penalty to receive a 10-year probation, after which a judge may reduce a convict’s sentence to life or 20 years’ imprisonment for good behavior.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Indonesian parliament buildings in Jakarta on Monday to protest the criminal code’s passage.



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