Jakarta. The United Nations human rights chief said on Wednesday (07/02) that the proposed revisions to the Indonesian criminal code are "inherently discriminatory" and chided the cultural argument on which the provisions were supposedly based.
The draft revision, which is being discussed by the House of Representatives, contains problematic articles on morality, such as the extension of adultery to include all extramarital sex under Article 484 of the draft, which states that a man and a woman not bound by a "legitimate marriage" could face up to five years in prison if found guilty of having had sexual intercourse.
Speaking at a press conference in Jakarta, UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said many indigenous communities in the country do not have marriage certificates and will therefore be disproportionately affected if such laws came into force.
"In many countries, when laws like these are passed, it always seems to fall disproportionately on the poor, those who are marginalized, those who do not have access to legal counsel," Zeid said.
In contrast, those who are well connected or have wealthy backgrounds are able to escape the impact of such laws, he added.
"Because these proposed amendments will in effect criminalize large sections of the poor and marginalized, they are inherently discriminatory," Zeid said.
Last week, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said the current draft should be re-evaluated with more input from the public.
Zeid began his three-day visit to Jakarta on Monday, at the invitation of the Indonesian government. He has met with top officials – including President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo – and representatives of civil society and the country's national human right institutions.
According to Zeid, the cultural argument being used to justify the discriminatory provisions are unacceptable. He said the revisions should not be necessary as it would have been part of the law from the beginning, if that was the case.
"It's being introduced now because it's coming from somewhere else. It's not part of the culture; it's being introduced and sold as part of the culture," said Zeid, a Jordanian prince and former diplomat.
Zeid also expressed deep concerns over extremist views playing out in the political arena in Indonesia, and touched on rising "strains of intolerance" across the archipelago.
"If Muslim societies expect others to fight against Islamophobia, we should be prepared to end discrimination at home too," he said.
The world's largest Muslim-majority country has been vocal and engaged in the fight against rising terrorism and extremism, often promoting a tolerant and moderate brand of Islam on various international platforms.
However, minority groups in the country are repeatedly subject to persecution by authorities and society.
"At a time when it is consolidating its democratic gains, we urge Indonesians to move forward – not backwards – on human rights and resist attempts to introduce new forms of discrimination in law," Zeid said.
He added that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs, skin color, sexual orientation, or any other status.