Indonesia: new legislation effectively criminalizes being gay by banning sex outside marriage, punishable with up to a year in jail

Indonesia LGBT
Indonesia LGBT



Indonesia: new legislation effectively criminalizes being gay by banning sex outside marriage, punishable with up to a year in jail


Indonesia’s parliament has (December 6) unanimously approved a new criminal code that outlaws sex outside marriage and restricts political and religious freedoms, in a shocking setback to human rights in the world’s third-largest democracy.


Sex outside marriage will carry a jail term of up to a year under the new laws, which take effect in three years, to allow for implementing regulations to be drafted.

Critics of the new legislation have warned that the change could be used to criminalise LGBT+ people, as same-sex marriage is illegal in Indonesia.


The updated legislation comes following an incline in religious conservatism in the Muslim-majority country.

In 2019, the Indonesian government attempted to pass a similar draft law, but President Joko Widodo benched the idea after tens of thousands of young people took to the streets in protest, saying that the law threatened their civil liberties. 

Indonesia LGBT
Indonesia LGBT

Sex before marriage was already banned in Indonesian legislative terms, prior to the latest changes to the country’s criminal code, but the law was rarely enforced.


The new legislation will apply equally to locals and to foreigners living in Indonesia, along with people visiting holiday destinations such as Bali and the islands off Lombok.

Under the new laws, unmarried couples caught having sex can be jailed for up to a year.

They are also banned from living together – a crime which can get you a jail term of up to six months.

Adultery will also be an offence, with potential jail time as punishment. 


Under the revised code, only close relatives such as a spouse, parent or child can report complaints related to extramarital sex or cohabiting.


The new law also bans insulting the president or state institutions, spreading views counter to the state ideology, and staging protests without notification.

Only the president can file a complaint about being insulted, but such a crime will carry a three-year jail sentence.

Indonesia lgbt
Group of Muslim protesters marching with banners against the LGBT+ community in Banda Aceh. (AFP Photo)

Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, said the new code was “totally counter-productive” at a time when the economy and tourism were starting to recover from the pandemic.

“We deeply regret the government have closed their eyes. We have already expressed our concern to the ministry of tourism about how harmful this law is,” he said.


U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim warned the legislative change could result in less foreign investment, tourism and travel to the Southeast Asian nation.

“Criminalising the personal decisions of individuals would loom large within the decision matrix of many companies determining whether to invest in Indonesia,” he said.


Several groups of mainly young people protested against the legislation outside parliament in Jakarta this week.

It is expected the new laws will be challenged in court.