The New Indonesian Criminal Code: What You Need To Know

Gold wedding bands on branch. Learn about the new Indonesian criminal code. The Travel Yogi. Photo: Komang Gita Krishna Murti

A new Indonesian criminal code recently was passed on December 6, 2022, which has caused the tourism industry to question how tourists will be affected if they choose to travel to Indonesia. Labeled the “Bali bonking ban” by media outlets, the question in play is whether tourists will be charged under this law or whether it will strictly apply to Indonesian citizens. The laws of other countries may seem different or strange to tourists, yet staying informed, and even curious, is the sign of a respectful and conscious traveler. Here’s what you need to know about the new Indonesian criminal code.

As culturally conscious travelers, we recommend travelers learn about the countries they visit before they hit the jet. Whether that means learning a few greetings in the local language, reading up on some history, or keeping up with current events, it’s always a good idea to do some research before you go. If you’re planning a trip to Bali, consider this required reading!

The New Indonesian Criminal Code

While you might have originally heard about the new Indonesian criminal code in the context of extramarital sex, the new code actually introduces several new measures. Here’s what you need to know.

1. No Extramarital Sex for Indonesians

If the new Indonesian criminal code goes into effect as written in three years, Indonesians can face up to a year in jail for sex out of wedlock and up to six months for extramarital cohabitating.

Can Tourists Have Sex Out of Wedlock in Indonesia? 

The short answer is yes. Caving to public concern around a dip in tourism, the governor of Bali confirmed that the government would not check the marital status of tourists. Even before this change, the likelihood of imprisonment was low for tourists considering that a spouse, child, or parent would be required to report them in order to be prosecuted. 

Can Tourists Have Extramarital Sex with Indonesians in Indonesia? 

This is less clear. While officials have confirmed that tourists will not be prosecuted under the new criminal code, it is likely that any Indonesians that have sex with tourists would be at risk.

2. No Insulting the President or Vice-President

The new criminal code would make it punishable to up to three years in prison for insulting the President or Vice-President of Indonesia. It would also be illegal to insult Pancasila (Indonesia’s national ideology), the Indonesian flag, and state institutions. 

3. No Spreading “False” News and Inciting Public Disturbances

Indonesians will face up to four years in prison for spreading news that is determined to be “false” by the government or for creating “public disturbances.” 

4. No Sharing Contraception and Abortion Information

The code would make it illegal to distribute information about how to get an abortion to anyone, and illegal to distribute information to children about contraception. 

Government To Recognize “Any Living Law”

What this means is that the government will grant formal legality to local regulations, some of which follow Sharia law—which may include regulations around female genital mutilation, female curfews, and dress codes. Please stay informed about local laws and customs, as well as country-wide laws. 

Conscious Travel Means Staying Informed

It’s simple. Stay informed, show up with curiosity and respect, and follow the rules of every country you travel to. One way to stay informed is to sign up for the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)—sign up to enroll in the nearest embassy or U.S. Consulate when you travel. According to the STEP website, the benefits of signing up include:

  • Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans
  • Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency
  • Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency

You may also consider setting up a Google Alert about changes and information regarding Bali.