Sunday, April 21, 2013

Indonesia’s New Criminal Code Outlaws Adultery, Cohabiting Couples, Dark Magic

Indonesia’s New Criminal Code Outlaws Adultery, Cohabiting Couples, Dark Magic
Camelia Pasandaran | March 07, 2013

This picture taken in Banda Aceh on April 8, 2012 shows an Acehnese couple sitting together as Sharia policemen patrol in Banda Aceh. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry) This picture taken in Banda Aceh on April 8, 2012 shows an Acehnese couple sitting together as Sharia policemen patrol in Banda Aceh. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Indonesia’s sweeping revision of its outdated Criminal Code spells bad news for cheating spouses, cohabiting couples and sorcerers accused of performing black magic.

The revised 500-plus page Criminal Code consists of 766 articles detailing sentences for everything from petty theft to premeditated murder. Included are harsh sanctions for seemingly benign offenses such as living together outside of wedlock, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, the same punishment for those convicted of prostitution.

The revised Criminal Code needs to pass through the House of Representatives before it becomes law. The document was submitted to lawmakers on Wednesday, a source with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights said.

The ministry argued that the current maximum sentence for convicted adulterers — nine months in prison — had failed to curb extramarital affairs in Indonesia. Under the proposed revision, cheating spouses would face a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

“[The] government proposed [the new penalties] because the sanction for adultery is too light,” ministry spokesman Goncang Raharjo said. “In line with current developments, we increased the sanctions to prevent people from easily committing adultery.”

Living together outside of wedlock was previously frowned upon, but was not illegal in Indonesia.

The current Criminal Code also lacks articles on witchcraft or dark magic. Under the revised code, those found guilty of using black magic to cause “someone’s illness, death, mental or physical suffering,” face up to five years in jail or Rp 300 million ($31,000) in fines, according to

The penalties can be increased by a third if the sorcerer offered to perform a spell for compensation, the Criminal Code reads. It is also illegal to claim you have dark magical powers in the first place.

Good or “white” magic is still legal under the revised code.

Indonesia’s Criminal Code was adopted from Dutch law and drafted in 1918. It was last revised in 1958 and until recently categorized the theft of anything over Rp 250 (3 cents) a serious offense. The ministry has long promised to bring the Criminal Code up to date and adjust crimes and fines in line with the current value of the rupiah.

But this latest revision also comes with proposed laws regulating morality, a section of law mostly restricted to local bylaws under the old code.

Ministry of Justice and Human Rights officials stood behind the revisions, explaining that all of the articles, even those concerning magic and other paranormal activities, are meant for the good of the people.

A lawmaker with the House of Representative’s commission on law and justice agreed with the proposed articles on witchcraft, as long as the charges were based on fact, not conjecture.

“It should be based on fact finding, not on someone’s statement,” said Khatibul Umam Wiranu of the Democratic Party.

Celebrity psychic Ki Joko Bodo, who lives in a Jakarta mansion modeled after the Borobodur temple, accused the government of basing laws on fantasy. He worried that police would use the new law to charge anyone accused of sorcery.

“They cannot prove it and can charge people on assumption,” he said. “But just let them [the government] do it. It won’t be effective.”

Articles punishing cheating spouses and cohabiting couples garnered words of support from some lawmakers and condemnation from others.

“Adultery is the beginning of many social problems,” Khatibul said. “The sentence should deter offenders [and] nine months is not long enough. I agree that the sentence should be increased, but five years is too long.”

He also welcomed the proposed laws against premarital cohabitation, saying it was a crime that needed to be punished.

A commissioner from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) urged the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to focus on rape and child molestation.

“I think [adultery and cohabitation] should be regulated, but it is more important to focus on the rape of children,” Nurcholis said.

The new Criminal Code also expands the definition of rape to include both oral and anal rape.

Another commissioner, Sandrayati Moniaga, said the articles regulating morality were a bad idea.

“Adultery and cohabiting are personal problems,” Sandrayati said. “It’s none of the government’s business, it’s the person’s business with God and their mate. The state should not intervene in personal affairs. Besides, how will they prove it?”

Both commissioners doubted police could find enough evidence to convict someone of using black magic to harm another person.

A 32-year-old employee of a private firm in South Jakarta welcomed the proposed laws against adultery and cohabitation.

“I agree [with the new laws] because it will bring us back to our Eastern roots,” Rahmat Surbakti said. “We have all seen celebrities on TV behaving improper and it isn’t a nice thing to see.”

But not everyone agreed.

The government should be offering protections to long-term couples who live together, not punishing them, said Irine Roba, 29.

“The government better look at another country, like Australia, [where] people who live together as a couple and are not married are protected under the law,” Irine said. “If this revision is implemented in Indonesia, women will be at a disadvantage. And what about the rights of children who are born out of wedlock? This is so unwise in so many aspects.”

Additional reporting by Abdul Qowi Bastian

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