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Indonesian Law Change Brings Concern For Unmarried Couples Traveling In Bali

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Both Human Rights organizations and travelers to Indonesia and Bali are raising concerns over a new bill set to be passed on the 15th December. The bill was previously tabled in 2019 but, after protests and backlash nationwide, was put on the back burner. 

Couple Look Lovingly At Each Other At Bali Rice Fields

Now, the bill is about to be tabled once again, and travelers are fearful that the new policy would make it difficult to travel to Bali. Indonesia has a series of anti-LGTBQIA+ policies that make it uneasy for many queer travelers to feel safe while traveling. The new policy could potentially alienate and endanger another of Indonesia’s key tourism demographics.

Couple Hold Hands And Look Out At Beach From Cave In Bali

The bill proposed in 2019 was quashed after tens of thousands of people took to the streets to oppose the legislation. Protestors said that the policy would ‘curtail civil liberties’ and that the punishments far, far outweighed the potential crime. During the first review of the 2019 bill, changes included making the maximum punishment for the listed crimes the death penalty. This could be reduced to life imprisonment based on 10 years of good behavior. 

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Couple In bali Luxury Hotel Look Out At Rice Fields and Jungle

Legal teams opposing the bill this time around note that little has changed in the proposed policy since 2019. Yet, Indonesia’s deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, told reporters, ‘We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with Indonesian values”.

The majority Muslim nation of over 280 million people appears to be increasingly conservative, with some of Indonesia’s provinces, like Aceh, moving in favor of highly restrictive laws that govern in more strict alignment with the ‘Indonesian values’ noted by Hiareij. 

Couple Hold Hands And look UP At Bali Waterfall

In reality, however, the potential passing of the bill would have little impact on travelers, especially in pro-tourism Bali.

Nevertheless, if a particularly pious or even disgruntled hotelier or accommodation owner found tourists, travelers, or long-term international residents in Indonesia breaking said laws, there would be little protection for those involved. 

Young caucasian couple making selfie on a music festival.

The legislation is still under scrutiny, and there is time for the events of 2019 to repeat themselves. Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch told reporters that if the changes come into effect, it would be a “huge setback to Indonesian democracy” for, ultimately, the new laws would restrict the freedoms of Indonesian people most significantly. 

The passing of the bill would cause damage to the tourism sector, especially in Bali. Naturally, no one wants to be breaking the law, at least not when they are on holiday. The new legislation would likely cause many travelers to seek out similar destinations, such as Thailand, for their South East Asian beach getaway. 

Happy romantic couple in love relaxing on honeymoon. The Ulun Danu Tamblingan Temple is located in the north side of Bali, in a Tamblingan lake . Tourist couple enjoying the lake. Photo of couple on a boat in the lake at sunset.

The Deputy Chair of Indonesia’s Employers’ Association, Shinta Widjaja Sukamda, told the media that the bill would “do more harm than good” to the country’s tourism sector. Sukamada said ‘For the business sector, the implementation of this customary law shall create legal uncertainty and make investors reconsider investing in Indonesia”.

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.

Publicly Indonesia, especially Bali, is a very pro-investment and pro-international business. In the last few months alone, Indonesia has launched the second home visa that allows high earners, entrepreneurs, and wealthy retirees to set up a base in Indonesia.

The Minister for Tourism and Creative Economies, Sanidaga Uno, is vocal about his intentions to diversify and level up the tourism economy in Bali. He is keen to see ever more remote workers and digital nomads in Bali with the launch of the B211a socio-cultural visa. It seems that with so much progress made and such bold commitments to the future, the potential passing of the bill is casting a shadow over the bright future of Bali. 

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Wednesday 7th of December 2022

What a bunch of patronizing colonialist crew we got in the comments today. If you disapprove and can't cope with the laws of a country just choose another destination. Sovereignty still exists in the majority of the countries, dealing with it. Of course this planned law is insane (and won't happen unless a Wahhabi/Takfiri becomes the next president), but if it was to happen so be it. Foreigners have no rights to interfere in any country's laws and policies regarding the country's citizens.


Thursday 29th of December 2022


I understand your point, but many people now are choosing to not get married but to just live together for many reasons. They are a family and not these sex crazed, entitled and disrespectful people that you described in your post.


Friday 9th of December 2022

@irene, Umar Patek is not in prison anymore.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

@Jimbo, Thats true. Each country has the right to decide for itself, yet some westerners think they are entitle to warn/express concern/dissaprove etc. Because they think they are superior and are entitled to dictate as they see their politicians doing it all the time. Tourists think they are entitled to have the experience they want because ''they contribute to the local economy''. My two cents are: Indonesia will pass this law. Bali tourism will not be affected. Some other people will come. Bali will wellcome that tourists they want: stay little (one, two weeks), be respectful of the locals customs, spend lots. It seems Bali wants more family trips and less wild parties and hippies. Also to discourage prostitution, to protect its citizens - many tourists take advantage of the local hardships, to get lots for some pennies. Thats not OK, better go educate people, this is not a good life for the any woman unless is that type she wants because she gets really rich - western girls making 5000 -10 000 $ per encounter, including dinner lol. But for the ones that take a few bucks, not a good deal. It is easier, but humiliating as we know how these type of men treat them, the poor ones that are rich in Bali and can solve their frustrations there. People of Indonesia deserves more. And this type of law will bring the tourists that go enjoy the beauty of the island, the sports not coming for fun, cheap drinks and cheap sex. A win win, Bali will once again become a paradise. Funny how for some progress means promiscuity. And lots of it, the more the better


Wednesday 7th of December 2022

The equality of all religions has been destroyed, Bali can no longer be called the Island of the Gods.

Bye bye Bali

Wednesday 7th of December 2022

Bali and Indonesia becoming dream holiday destination to wahabbists, nice… Maybe MBS starts to invest those Saudi billions to your Island, just remember to remove all the hindu temples and babi guling first.


Saturday 10th of December 2022

@Bye bye Bali, hahahaha

Robert Fisher

Wednesday 7th of December 2022

Wow tourist be strongly aware, this nation is posing a serious threat to non fundamentalist Muslims the next Bali bombings are not far off, be aware if you have a holiday booked there cancel, the island of the gods and the Indonesian is not the peaceful serene place they make it out to be!!!!’


Saturday 10th of December 2022

@Robert Fisher, oh please... Get a grip will you.


Wednesday 7th of December 2022

There are modern young unmarried Indonesians living together. Like it or not. This nonsense law will take 3 years to be enforced anyway. Meanwhile there will be challenges in court. Furthermore do people have the time to snitch on each other because suspected couples may be committing adultery. Seriously...

Why embrace Middle Eastern fundamentalist values and culture?? Isn't Indonesian culture and care free society much more valuable and to be proud of. Many Indonesians are not happy with this criminal code that takes a set back into the middle ages.


Saturday 10th of December 2022

@Exp, I still remember clearly to this day at the Jakarta old airport from a long haul flight. There was a flight from the Middle East as well . After the customs area, there were registered taxis and the representatives were yelling Puncak Puncak sir to the male Arab travelers. Sigh.


Saturday 10th of December 2022

@Exp, well said. Many Indonesians do NOT like the Arabization encroaching on their culture. Do you know the Arab colony kampung in Puncak? They come, they get married, get a marriage certificate (that will expire) to fornicate with local women. It's just disgusting!! And Indonesians are clueless. Race and culture have nothing to do with religion.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

This is a result of ongoing Arabization. SA are spending a lot of money in Indonesia. They are very effective as they target education and worship. A new generation is growing up trained in Wahhabism / Salafism. SA effort is starting to bear fruit.