Aussie Tourists Told To Remain Calm Over Bali 'Sex Ban'
Bali tourism officials have moved to hose down reports that the Indonesian government will impose a ban on pre-marital sex that could result in jail time for offenders, including tourists.
The Bali Hotels Association (BHA) is urging tourists to "stay calm and continue their activities (or planned activities) as usual", amid further reports Australians were cancelling their Bali holiday plans.
The statement was issued following front page headlines across Australia warning of a "Bali Sex Ban" as "Indonesia moves to ban consensual sex outside of marriage amid crackdown".
The reports were referring to what is commonly known as the Adultery Act, which would ban people living together outside of marriage and extramarital sex.
Government officials released a statement on Tuesday confirming the passing of the bill had been indefinitely postponed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
“The recommendation of the full regulations, including what is commonly mentioned as the “Adultery Act” is still a recommendation and has not yet formally issued and cannot be enforced," the statement said in an English translation provided by BHA.
"Based on various feedback, the President of The Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian Parliament have agreed to indefinitely postpone the passing of the bill with those new regulations.
"Bali Government office encourages all parties involved in tourism (i.e. persons visiting or planning to visit, as well as industry stakeholders) to stay calm and continue their activities (or planned activities) as usual.”
Many Indonesians in the predominantly Muslim country were outraged by the proposed laws and Balinese tourism operators were frightened the ban would scare off tourists, prompting President Joko Widodo to indefinitely postpone the legislative changes.
"Based on various feedback, the President of the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian Parliament have agreed to indefinitely postpone the bill with those new regulations," the hotels association said in a statement.
It stressed "the Adultery Act is still a recommendation and has not yet formally been issued and cannot be enforced".
Earlier in the week, thousands of students protested at rallies across Indonesia.
Critics say the bill violates free speech and discriminates against religious minorities, women and LGBT people. But Islamic groups, including Indonesia's biggest Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama, say the changes reflect "the character and the personality of the Indonesian people and the nation".
The revisions to the country's criminal code, which has not been updated since its inception during the Dutch colonial-era, also include penalties for insulting the president's dignity, a four-year jail term for abortions in the absence of a medical emergency or rape, and a prison term for black magic.
The planned revisions had spurred Australia to update its travel advice, warning citizens of risks they could face from extra-marital or gay sex should the law be passed.
Bali, a Hindu enclave in mostly Muslim Indonesia and the country's most important tourism destination, is especially popular with visitors from Australia.
"I think it's crazy, because there's a lot of couples coming to Bali on, like, a romantic holiday, and they are not married, they might be just a boyfriend or girlfriend," said Sienna Scott, an Australian holidaying on the island.
Local officials said they hoped there might be changes to the bill before it becomes law.
"If possible, articles which are sensitive to our lives in Bali can be reviewed or eliminated," Bali deputy governor, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, said.
Australia is among the top sources of tourists in Bali with more than a million people holidaying on the island every year - about one in four of the total tourist numbers - pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy.
The Australian government's Smartraveller guide acknowledged the proposed laws on September 20, but says any changes won't come into force for two years.
"We've updated our travel advice to include new information about possible future changes to Indonesia's Criminal Code," the website advises.
"We haven't changed the level of our advice – 'exercise a high degree of caution' in Indonesia, including Bali."