Is the Indonesian Law change bad for Australian Tourists

Indonesia has changed it’s Criminal Code to ban sex outside of Marriage. While the new law has revised the reporting conditions “on sex outside marriage and cohabitation, for example {the laws], now state such complaints can only be reported by close relatives such as a spouse, parent or child”, does it open a legal minefield for international visitors?

A news article that also references some other changes made to Indonesian laws:

Indonesia bans sex outside marriage amid sweeping law changes (



According to the latest ABC News article, the new law will apply to locals and international visitors alike.

"“The danger of oppressive laws is not that they’ll be broadly applied, it’s that they provide avenue for selective enforcement,” senior Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said.

He said many hotels, including in tourism areas — such as Bali and metropolitan Jakarta — risked losing visitors."

None of the couples/families we know who regularly go to Bali are married. Not much chance of them going again I suspect if there was a danger of them being imprisoned for merely ‘being unmarried and cohabiting’.

Repressive regimes just don’t appear to want to learn lessons from humanity’s history.


Looks like an opening for the morality police to shake down tourists who may not know the exact details of the state laws.

Still, you should be aware if you go there that Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, and they do have conservative views on such things like sex outside marriage.

Know your country. I once got arrested in the US for openly smoking a roll-your-own. Not something done in those days as it could only be weed, according to the local police.


Many countries have laws and standards very different to Australia, and one should be familiar with those which could impact a traveller. Smart Traveller is a good place to start…

We also shouldn’t judge other countries laws through our own eyes, and should adhere to the other countries laws when travelling. No differently to those international travellers visiting Australia. Australia has many laws which may seem foreign to an international travellers, whether it is the legal age to do something, activities that are prohibited or the personal use of illicit substances.


Maybe so but this goes rather beyond that … the mere act of a de facto couple visiting Indonesia may constitute a crime (unless they pay for 2 separate rooms). Would it be enforced for tourists? Probably not. Is that something that you are prepared to gamble on? It should make you think twice.

In other words, no-one need judge another country, only judge the risk.

Possibly this could be cleared up by defining cohabitation in such a way that it only applies to citizens, permanent residents or visa holders with other types of ongoing residency. This could still discourage temporary or permanent professional migration but at least then shouldn’t discourage tourists.

Since it is common these days for de jure couples to have different surnames, you wonder what proof you need to bring along that you are not committing sin during your stay. Rolls eyes.

And **** help you if you are an Australian gay couple / lesbian couple and legally married under Australian law. What does this new law make of that? :wink:

Bottom line: It makes it less likely that I would visit Indonesia. There are lots of countries in the world. I don’t need this kind of aggravation.


Are there concerns for what many might see as a double standard, and what could follow?

  1. Would such an action result in visitors not complying with other Indonesian laws that have no equivalent in the visitor’s country of citizenship?
  2. Conversely would Australia exempt visiting foreign citizens from compliance with Australian laws where there is no equivalent requirement in their home nation?

It’s a broad question that the topic is asking. As travellers Australian’s visit many other countries with laws and cultures more restrictive of individuals than our own. Indonesia is not an exception.

There are many more tourists travelling from other Asian nations than Australian’s travelling to Indonesia pre Covid. Many of those Asian based tourists are from nations with many similarities to Indonesia.

Is the greater wisdom to recognise nations have different laws and cultures, and choose whether one can respect them before deciding to visit. The Indonesian messaging is clearly intended to reinforce the norms of their majority. It’s timely advice to consider before making the voluntary decision to visit or not.

One day perhaps?
Just as Australia enforces it’s sovereign right to prevent or accept anyone arriving at it’s borders, there is no automatic right for Australian’s to enter Indonesia. Perhaps one day Indonesia and Australia could be part of a SE Asian Union, just as for the EU. Common laws, free movement across all borders and equal work rights?


It won’t apply to visiting de facto tourist or most tourists…

The legislation on sex outside marriage and cohabitation is complaint-based, with only a husband or wife of a married person or the parents or children of an unmarried person able to report a matter to police. That means de facto foreign couples effectively can’t be denounced to authorities (source).

It will only apply to a de facto tourist if their unmarried ‘partner’ has parents or children residing in Indonesia or one in de facto relationship reports the other.

The impact on foreign tourists will be limited possibly to those who partake in sex tourism, have a relationship with an unmarried Indonesian local or have a relationship breakdown in Indonesia and try and use the laws for revenge (the later unlikely as it also incriminates oneself).


You mean all this pother is a result of failure of the press and social media to do their research? Golly gosh.


Technically that is not fair - because the visitors would be complying with Indonesian laws - because I am suggesting that the law be written differently - to be more practical.

Is that a double standard? Yes, up to a point - but there are many examples from around the world, in a range of spheres of endeavour that discriminate between residents/citizens and visitors.

You need look no further than Qatar, where I’m led to believe there is a certain soccer game happening at the moment. There are designated areas where visitors can consume alcohol despite the fact that locals might not be allowed to do the same.

Further than that, anyone (any Westerner) who has lived and worked in countries in the Middle East can tell you that what applies to locals does not necessarily apply to visitors.

If I am a US citizen then I have to pay income tax to the US government, no matter where in the world I am living and no matter where the income is earned. That doesn’t magically apply to me as a non-US citizen, even if I spend X weeks travelling across the US.

Ultimately, yep, it is up to Indonesians alone to determine the laws that apply in Indonesia - and the laws will have consequences.

It is not a choice though in this case. If I am an Australian de facto couple then I will automatically be in breach of the Indonesian cohabitation law (even if it won’t be reported). I can’t choose to obey that - other than, as stated, paying twice as much to get two rooms, which is not generally going to work. (I can imagine hotel operators trying to bridge this divide by having adjoining rooms with a lockable unlocked door between them - and some kind of discount price. In many hotels in many countries there are such doors already.)

Not sure that it actually is the norms of their majority. Perhaps, as in Australia, a noisy minority imposing its will on the majority. Or just a powerful minority. But, as said, their system of government and their laws and their consequences.

Perhaps … but I think this topic is arguing just how unrealistic that seems today, with our two countries moving further apart, not closer together.

Yes, I read that. I think you would need to read the fine print (in accurate translation?) to see exactly how much protection that really gives. Indonesia has a vested interest in downplaying the risk.

What about a de facto couple with a surly teenage sprog? :wink: I could raise any number of (some quite wild) hypotheticals. Honestly, with laws like this, it takes time to even know what the problems are. No-one ever thinks that X will happen until it actually does. You can bet that if/when it does, it will get disproportionate publicity.


It is a choice.
The choice to not visit Indonesia if one cannot comply with their laws. In which instance why would you bother visiting?

As much as we could debate the rights and wrongs of the laws of a foreign nation vs Australia, it does not change the reality of what the laws of Indonesia or any other foreign nation prescribe.


Exactly: It makes it less likely that I would visit Indonesia. There are lots of countries in the world. I don’t need this kind of aggravation.


They will drive away tourists Next they will charge a “Nookie Tax” to chase away even more visitors!

A light hearted view of the world?
Everyone who has had and raised children knows both the joys, time and financial commitments that follow.

Indonesia is one of many choices for Asian and Middle Eastern tourists. It’s a lower cost destination than Australia for the same tourists.

An alternate outcome? It’s possible many overseas tourists will see Indonesia as a better choice for lower cost and cultural familiarity.

For any Australian looking for a great holiday experience, the joys of the tropics, and great beer and food. Darwin and Cairns offer all without a need to purchase expensive travel insurance or passport renewals. And for those serking to experience forbidden youthful dreams, there is always Dream World, or Wet and Wild on the Gold Coast. Theme parks for those whose minds were drifting elsewhere. :wink:

Hollywood has much to answer for in misrepresenting the great expanse of SE Asian culture. Start with Road to Bali (Bob Hope and Bing) or Bali Hai (R&H Musical) to note just how misguided. The second is at least entertaining for the quality of the music and lyrics.

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And if I actually live in Indonesia, I would be more worried about some of the other law changes: Sex outside of marriage is not the only thing in Indonesia's new criminal code that's causing concern - ABC News which ultimately could also create a bad impression of the country and drive away even more tourists.


That will drive tourists away as mostly young couples go.

At same time they cannot possibly police it.

Will they require to see a marriage license?
Many people don’t wear rings.
Of course they can buy costume jewellery just for the holiday.


The Govt smarttraveller website has upgraded it’s warning about travel there. The high degree of caution relates to overall security not solely about the law changes.

" The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smart Traveller advisory was updated on Thursday to alert anyone going to Indonesia to be aware.

The overall advice is to “exercise a high degree of caution” when in Indonesia.

“Indonesian Parliament has passed revisions to its criminal code, which includes penalties for cohabitation and sex outside of marriage,” said the advice.

“These revisions will not come into force for three years.”"


Jumping the gun I would say. Plenty of time to get your holiday in and worry about it in a few years time.


Maybe, but there could be civil unrest from local people who disagree with some of the political law changes (curbs on freedom of expression) rather than or in addition to the “bonk ban”. That could start immediately. It’s not as if it has not happened already, so not a bold suggestion … Earlier news articles have noted that these changes were actually postponed when the powers that be tried to introduce them in 2019 e.g. Indonesia student protests against law changes enter third day | Reuters

Someone else’s civil unrest is not something that you want to get caught up in, even if unknowingly.


The ABC have toned down their earlier article, after receiving expert advice on the new laws…

Simon Butt — a professor and director of the centre for Asian and Pacific law at the University of Sydney’s law school — said the sex ban for unmarried couples was unlikely to affect tourists.

“Provided that no such complaints are made to Indonesian police,” Professor Butt warned.

"Police cannot proceed with investigating adultery or cohabitation without a complaint.

“Not just anyone can make a complaint.”

There has been a lot of speculation in the media and elsewhere of the potential impact on tourists. This speculation has been unfounded and differs to that of experts which has now been published by the ABC.


As I wrote above: I think you would need to read the fine print in accurate translation.

I too have readoh, a complaint can only be made by a family member” but what does the fine print actually say? Is a quoted expert that doesn’t have a working knowledge of the Indonesian language just relying on someone else’s translation about what the law actually says? Or hasn’t looked at the exact wording?

For laughs: family member of whom? I’m a family member. You’re a family member. We all are. It is assumed that it intends to say (or does say) "family member of one or other or both (or all :rofl:) of the people who are the target of the complaint.

But that’s only about the bonk ban.

The article is also careful to point out that the more political parts of these new laws will apply to tourists as well.

So if you post to social media while you are on holiday (which is lots of people these days, particularly younger people) and you are silly enough to have weak (or non-existent) privacy settings (which, sadly, is also lots of people) and you post something that someone deems to be attacking the “honour or dignity” of “the president, vice-president, government, a state institution or a public authority” or that someone deems to be an “idea” that is out of line with “Indonesia’s state ideology” then you could fall foul of these new laws.

It might not be a malicious comment on social media. It might not be a considered comment, just some off-hand or throw-away comment. But you can tell that to the judge. (That is not to say that the same can’t happen in Australia!)

The article ends with:

The law will not be implemented fully … but it will provide an avenue for extortion and bribes

(which is also something that had occurred to me reading this discussion a few days ago i.e. I asked myself: how could the new law be used maliciously as a means of generating income?)

So, um, you have been warned.