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Indonesia’s controversial sex laws will not affect foreign tourists visiting Bali, officials have confirmed in a statement issued Monday.
“Based on the provisions of the new Indonesian criminal code, visitors who visit or live in Bali would not need to worry,” said Balinese governor Wayan Koster, adding that there would be “no checks on marital statuses at tourist accommodations like hotels, villas, guest houses or spas, or inspections by public officials or community groups.”
Like most major tourism hotspots around the world, Bali suffered vast economic turmoil during the Covid-19 pandemic. International travelers have been returning to the popular resort island as the pandemic subsides, but industry players previously told CNN that the country’s new criminal code could put foreigners off visiting and hurt the country’s global reputation.
Indonesian lawmakers on Tuesday added controversial new laws to its colonial-era criminal code, which sparked global concerns about rights and privacy in the Southeast Asian country.
Wayan was addressing questions from the public on how laws governing sex and marriage included in the new code would affect international travelers.
“Bali is (business) as usual – comfortable and safe to visit,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming visitors with our Balinese hospitality and advise all parties not to deliver misleading statements regarding the Indonesian criminal code that might disrupt Bali tourism,” he added.
His words also followed an official clarification from government spokesperson Albert Aries last week, who said that foreign investors and travelers “did not have to worry” about persecution by the laws. “People’s privacy is still guaranteed by law so there’s really nothing to worry about, ” he said.
“The new Criminal Code has also never provided additional administrative requirements for business actors in the tourism sector to ask anyone about their marital status.”
Officials previously said that the new code – which bans adultery, cohabitation before marriage and apostasy – would also apply to foreign residents and tourists.
It’s safe to say that tourists in Bali will not be affected by the new laws. But for hundreds of millions of Indonesians, the reality on the ground remains worrying.
“For decades now, Indonesia has enjoyed a reputation as a pluralistic democracy, with very little religious, ethnic, or political conflict, given its size and cultural diversity,” said Rebekah Moore, a professor at Northeastern University and co-founder of Bersama Project, an Indonesian arts and culture nonprofit.
Many groups like activists, journalists, religious minorities and members of the queer community are still at risk and will be harmed by this new code, Moore added.
“The provisions could impact any Indonesian exercising freedom of expression,” she said. “I observed firsthand what happens when extremists (in Indonesia) are emboldened by the political and media mainstream and am deeply concerned for queer and activist friends and others.”
Top image: Canggu, a coastal village in Bali. Credit: Agung Parameswara/Getty Images