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How Bali's sex ban could impact your family holiday

A new law could seriously impact Bali's tourist industry.

A new criminal code in Indonesia dramatically curtailing human rights, including a ban on sex outside marriage, has been approved by parliament.

So how will such a draconian piece of legislation affect holidaying families?

The law, dubbed ‘the Bali bonk ban’ by some elements of the foreign media, will apply to everyone, including foreign residents living in, and tourists visiting, Indonesia.

While holidaying families are unlikely to fall into Bali’s partying demographic, where holiday romances and one night stands are often part and parcel of a sunshine break, the law may affect visitors who are single-sex couples or unmarried cohabiting couples. Violating the sex outside marriage law will carry a punishment of up to a year in gaol, while unmarried couples found cohabiting could face up to six months in gaol.

But although Indonesia’s parliament voted unanimously this month to implement the code, it will take three years to come into effect. The law is also still yet to be approved by Indonesia’s president.

If it goes ahead, further curbs on personal freedoms will include jail time for insulting the president and spreading ‘fake news’, and blasphemy laws will also be expanded.

However, in reality it may be unlikely that tourists are caught out by the controversial curbs. Only family members including parents, spouses or children can bring charges against lawbreakers for sex out of marriage or cohabitation offences. However, while politicians say the law aims to protect the institution of marriage and safeguard against third parties making judgement, concerns have been raised over the potential for blackmail and score-settling.

In Bali, there are worries that the law could hamper the island’s tentative post-pandemic recovery as tourists are scared off to other, more carefree, destinations in Southeast Asia. Bali is currently on target to meet its goal of 1.5 million tourists this year; in 2019 around 16 million travellers visited the country.

According to Amnesty International Indonesia, “The passing of the criminal code bill is clearly a step back in the protection of civil rights… particularly on the rights of freedom of expression and press freedom.”

The general consensus seems to be that while it’s unlikely tourists will end up getting caught up in the new regulations, the possibility is still there.

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