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New Bali law could see Aussies arrested for common act

A PETITION intended to target same-sex relationships in Indonesia could have a huge impact on Australians visiting the tourist hotspot of Bali.

The petition, which was been put before Indonesia's Constitutional Court this year, proposes amending the criminal code to criminalise sex outside of marriage as well as same-sex relations.

If the petition does become law across Indonesia it could have huge ramifications for Australian tourists and visitors to the Asian nation.

Human Rights Watch Indonesian researcher Andreas Harsono told news.com.au the petition and the thinking behind it was dangerous.

He said it also further fuelled discrimination towards the LGBTI community.

The petition, led by conservative group the Family Love Alliance, "put forward ill-informed and bigoted testimony similar to the anti-LGBT rhetoric espoused by Indonesian officials and politicians earlier this year," Human Rights Watch said.

Mr Harsono, who was in Australia this week, said while the court's decision didn't make this petition legally enforceable, it had the potential to affect both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Pre-marital sex could be banned
Pre-marital sex could be banned

Mr Harsono said this meant Australians visiting Bali, for example, could in theory find themselves committing a crime or offence if the petition becomes law nationally through an act of parliament.

"The group behind this petition want to make consensual relationships outside marriage illegal," he said.

"If it becomes a national law, Australians could be punished. We're now waiting for the verdict.

"If it is to materialise, it will be used to charge same-sex couples indeed. It will be a crime."

Mr Harsono said he believed the petition intended to target the LGBTI community in particular because homosexuality was "not accepted" in Indonesia.

While same-sex relations are not technically illegal, except in the province of Banda Aceh, gay, lesbian and transgender Indonesians suffer huge discrimination across the country, Mr Harsono said.

He said some conservative Muslims viewed it as unnatural and as a mental illness.

"They believe if they accept it in their society, God's anger will be on them," he said.

Mr Harsono said there has been a dramatic rise in recent months of intolerance of minorities including Christians, gay and lesbian people, women and even other Muslim groups.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has failed to speak out against statements and policies by senior government and military officials that have fuelled hate and violations of the country's LGBTI community, Human Rights Watch said.

INTOLERANCE SURGE

Indonesia's Aceh Province, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, is among the only place in the Muslim-majority country which implements the strict version of Sharia Law.

Under this law crimes including homosexuality and sex outside marriage are severely punished.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Indonesia has long been a bastion of moderate Islam, however hard-line Muslim groups have made recent inroads across the country, threatening its religious tolerance.

One group known as FPI is pushing to promote a stricter version of Islam across Indonesia and want to see sharia law become a model for the rest of Indonesia.

Just this month, a raid in the West Java province targeted 12 suspected lesbians.

Local Islamic youth groups and religious leaders complained the women's cohabitation was "against the teachings of Islam."

Human Rights Watch said the forced evictions violated the women's right to privacy and police demanded the women relocate elsewhere with no legal justification.

"Evicting these women based on prejudiced assumptions of their sexual identity threatens the privacy of all Indonesians and has no place in a country whose motto is 'unity in diversity," Mr Harsono said.

According to HRW, at least four raids have been carried out on LGBTI people in private settings this year alone.

On March 28, vigilantes forcibly entered an apartment in Aceh and took two men to the police for allegedly having same-sex relations. The men were publicly flogged two months later.

In April, police raided a private gathering of gay and bisexual men in the city of Surabaya and arrested and detained 14.

One month later police raided the Atlantis Spa in Jakarta, arresting 141 people, and charging 10 for holding an alleged sex party.

And on June 8, police apprehended five "suspected lesbians" and ordered their parents to supervise them while sharing a video of the raid and their names with media, Human Rights Watch said.

debra.killalea@news.com.au

Topics:  bali editors picks indonesia law premarital sex sex sharia

News Corp Australia


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