11 July 2024

JAKARTA, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Visitors to Bali will not be put at risk by Indonesia’s newly ratified criminal code, the island’s governor said, dismissing concerns that revised laws which include articles criminalising sex outside marriage may scare away tourists from its shores.

Indonesia’s parliament last week passed the controversial bill that also prohibits cohabitation between unmarried couples.

Seeking to reassure visitors, Bali Governor Wayan Koster in a statement on Sunday noted the new laws, which come into affect in three years, could only be prosecuted if there was complaint by a parent, spouse or child.

Those who “visit or live in Bali would not need to worry with regard to the entry into force of the Indonesian Criminal Code”, he said.

The governor said provisions in the criminal code on this issue had been altered from an earlier, stricter version so “would provide a better guarantee of everyone’s privacy and comfortableness.”

Bali’s government would ensure “there will be no checking on marital status upon check-in at any tourism accommodation, such as hotels, villas, apartments, guest houses, lodges and spas,” Wayan said.

Wayan also denied what he said were “hoax” reports of cancellations of flights and hotel room bookings, adding that data from travel agents, tour and accommodation operators, as well as airlines, showed the number of people set to visit Bali from December 2022 to March 2023 had increased.

Bali is the centre of tourism in Indonesia and the tourism association is targeting foreign arrivals on the predominately Hindu island to reach pre-pandemic levels of six million a year by 2025.

Decades in the making, legislators hailed the passage of the criminal code as a much-needed overhaul of a vestige of Dutch colonial rule. Officials say it aims to uphold “Indonesian values” in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

But Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, said last week the new code was “totally counter-productive” at a time when the economy and tourism were starting to recover from the pandemic.

The United Nations has also expressed concern over threats to civil liberties posed by the criminal code, which also includes laws that make it an offence to insult the president, the national flag and state institutions.