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Everything You Need To Know About Bali’s New Laws For Unmarried Couples

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Indonesia has officially passed legislation that is being highly debated. The news has triggered much concern for many travelers planning to visit Bali soon. While the new laws apply to all people in Indonesia, whether citizens or visitors, there are only very specific circumstances whereby unmarried foreigners in Bali could fall on the wrong side of the law. 

Couple Walk Along Bali Beach At Sunset

On the 6th of December 2022, the parliament in Indonesia signed off on significant revisions to the Indonesian Criminal Code (RKUJP). The huge changes have bought about genuine concerns for Indonesian citizens as the legislation does not only criminalize cohabitation and sex before marriage but a swathe of other political freedoms.

While much of the media is honing in on ‘Bali’s Bonking Ban’, many have argued that the limiting of freedoms and rights for Indonesian people should be of primary focus. 

Couple Walk Towards Bali Temple

Nevertheless, travelers’ concerns over what the new laws mean for them as tourists in Indonesia are valid. The updates to the law have only been passed in parliament, it will take up to three years for them to come into effect. Legal specialists envisage there being a further backlash against the new laws that could slow the process further. Many political commentators have suggested that the new rules will be tricky to enforce. 

The law states that only a person close to the couple can report them to the police. In this regard, only someone who the relationship could negatively impact can report co-habiting or sex before marriage to the police, such as a parent, a child, or a spouse, in the incidence of an extra-marital affair. 

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Couple Kiss At Bali Rice Field Photo Spot

Therefore, there are only a few scenarios where foreign tourists in Bali could get themselves in hot water. The most likely situation would be where a foreigner hooks up with or gets into a relationship with, or starts living with, an Indonesian person. If a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, disapproves and reports the couple to the police, an investigation may be launched and charges made. 

Another scenario, an unlikely one at that, is that an unmarried foreign couple goes on holiday to Indonesia with their own families and their family members report them to the police locally. So, despite the backlash and confusion online, it is clear that unmarried couples do not need to make any immediate changes to their travel plans to Bali. 

Couple Ride Bikes Along Quiet Bali Road.

Even hoteliers in Bali are concerned about the implications of the law on their services. Although Bali is making efforts to stamp out badly behaved tourists, on the whole, the island is very lenient when it comes to unmarried couples.

Sex outside of marriage has been illegal in Indonesia for decades. However, it was the case that charges could only be bought by an aggrieved spouse in the case of an affair. The law has been largely unenforced in Bali and other liberal areas of Indonesia.

Indonesian Couple Watching Viral Video on Smartphone During Staycation.

Indonesia is made up of 17,000 islands and has a huge range of cultural, social, and political diversity. Many areas are further governed by local laws, some of which override national laws. Aceh Province in Sumatra, for example, is governed by Sharia law and central government legislation. The province is incredibly conservative and has strict morals and little leniency regarding behavior that goes against cultural expectations. 

Two couples walking down Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia while embracing and laughing with each other. The main focus is the couple at the front.

In Bali, an area that values tourism and largely depends on international tourism, most people see the law change as nothing to worry about. Speaking to reporters, a New Zealander living in Bali with his wife explained that he doesn’t; think the law will impact holidaymakers. It is tricky to see the benefit for tourism providers in Bali to report unmarried couples to the police.

It remains to be seen whether police would be allowed to act on reports from parties other than close relatives, such as a hotel owner. Caterer Matt said, “People are very worried and many thinking of canceling their holidays. I don’t think this will happen, nor is it anything to worry about.” 

Couple-Look-Lovingly-At-Each-Other-At-Bali-Rice-Fields

Interestingly, Indonesian Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly told reports that she expects there to be a dialogue about the new laws despite strict policies on freedom of speech. He said, “Our society is multicultural and multiethnic, it’s impossible to accommodate 100 percent of all interests. We have no intention to silence critics”.

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Tropical Rick

Friday 6th of January 2023

While your article attempts to down play the new law it misses the point . There are a host of possibilities that could create chaos . Such as blackmail.

Indonesia has many problems why are they trying to legislate into peoples private lives .

This law is a affront to everyone

Steph

Thursday 15th of December 2022

Do what I say but not what I do... Its a shame to pass that kind of law when so many married governement just go to karaoke for cheating of their wife during the night... and then pass a law to forbid that... Its like porn.. "Everyone" watch porn but governement keep blaming and blocking it

Shorty

Wednesday 14th of December 2022

It means nothing. It's not due to come into effect for 3 years. It's just ignorant, unresearched headline grabbing hot air by untold Western media, with little or no attempt at understanding RI and its diversity. There will be court challenges, amendments....and remember by then a change of government and president. BTW Douglas,LGBTQ is not eve mentioned in the proposed legislation.

steve

Tuesday 13th of December 2022

So not only are the Indo govt recommending covid passports, but now also trying to control peoples sexuality. Total dictatorship- why go there?

Randy

Saturday 10th of December 2022

Several news outlets coming out of UK or Australia have yet to understand fully the law that has passed but not yet enforced. Several misinformation and misleading information that create fear mongering and could attract ignorant people with their add-on conspiracy theories.

1. An article in a famous UK news outlet regarding this law that mentioned Indonesia has an Islamic government. 2. It also wrote that it is not a secular State.

Those are misinformation and misleading quotes in the two points above.

According to another US article that revolves more around classical, social and most notably, economic liberalism; Indonesia is NOT a Muslim State, the official ideology "Pancasila" mphasizes pluralism. Western allies have praised Indonesia for combining widespread piety with a dedication to liberal values.

Furthermore the US State Department spokesperson told a news briefing that the US was assessing the contents of this law and worth bearing in mind that the implementing regulations had not yet been drafted. Currently, Indonesia bans adultery not premarital sex. (some US States do have an adultery law but not entirely enforced mind you). However the Indonesian criminal code will not come into effect for three years to allow for implementing regulations to be drafted.

The complaint offense that can be filed by husband/wife/parents/children to prevent infidelity and disharmony. Whatever the content maybe, it is still a bad idea that could open to wild interpretation/speculation and probably even blackmail.

Ricky Lovina

Tuesday 13th of December 2022

@Randy, Agree fact is this is already approved Indonesian Law, no matter how politiions try B/S to play it down. IT can be used to honey trap an infidel, non muslim $$$ Bule for extortion. A few facts about Indonesian police law , A suspect can be held in a Polres (Police)lockup for 28 days before being charged A suspect is given nothing except low quality indonesian soup. No bedding, toiletries, clothing supplied, 12-15 in one cell ,sqat toilet no privacy doors or electricity, All designed to break prisoners especially "GOLD" $$$ Bule who usually are screaming at the walls after 2/3 days.and will pay anything to get out. This is the Indonesian SYSTEM,I experienced in 2003 for 4 months because i would not buckle to extortion on a trumped up assault charge. that when it got to court all the paperwork had disappeared and the "good hearted"judge said i was free to go. Do Not think this cannot happen to you in Indonesia.