Jakarta. The House of Representatives on Tuesday enacted the bill on the Criminal Code into law despite mounting public criticisms over its controversial articles, including one that criminalizes sex outside of marriage.
Article 411 of the new Criminal Code stipulates: Whoever involves in sexual intercourse with someone other than the spouse is punishable by a prison term of up to one year.
Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly said the new law will come into force after an introductory period of three years.
"For the next three years, the teams from the government and the House of Representatives will be disseminating the concepts and philosophies of the new Criminal Code to law enforcement agencies, the public, and campuses," Yasonna told reporters at the legislature building in Jakarta.
Indonesia needs to update the current Criminal Code that has been adopted since the Dutch colonial period back in 1918, he added.
The century-old penal code is no longer relevant and behind the times, while the replacement has been designed to be “reformative, progressive, and in accordance with the present situation in Indonesia”, Yasonna said.
“Our society is multi-culture and multiethnic, it’s impossible to accommodate 100 percent of all interests. We have no intention to silence critics,” the minister said.
The Criminal Code was approved unanimously by all nine parties during a plenary session in the 575-member lower chamber of the country’s legislature.
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Another contentious article concerns the human rights tribunal that cannot apply retroactively, meaning that past rights violations may go unpunished.
Rights groups and legal activists have publicly demanded major revisions to the bill because it could potentially harm civil liberties in the democratic nation.
Uli Parulian Sihombing, a commissioner with the National Commission for Human Rights, said his office will conduct a thorough review of the new Criminal Code to make sure that the work and authority of the commission are not eroded.
He told BTV news broadcaster that an appendix to the Criminal Code grants that the 2000 Law on Human Rights Tribunal remains applicable to try rights violations that occurred prior to the adoption of the new penal code.
“We want to make sure that the commission can still perform an inquiry and coordinate with prosecutors’ office to investigate and prosecute human rights violations in the past,” Uli said on BTV night talk show Obrolan Malam.
Under the Criminal Code, rally organizers can be jailed if the event turns violent, said Julius Ibrani, chairman of the non-governmental group Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association.
“The problem is that the nation maintains the colonial characteristic of imprisoning people for no crime,” Julius told BTV host Fristian Griec.
He also questioned another article that carries jail terms for those convicted of insulting state institutions.
“What does it mean by insulting? I agree if this applies in the context of personal lives, but when insulting an institution becomes a crime I think it’s going beyond any reasonable judgment,” Julius said.