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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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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