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Bali Law on Love Unchanged: Ain’t Nobody’s Business if We Do!

Bali Senior Officials Proclaim No Imminent Change Planned in Criminal Code on Adultery and Sexual Relations Between Consenting Adults

Nationwide reports of civil unrest across Indonesia by people protesting a revision of the National Criminal Code (KUHP) is receiving coverage in the international media causing fears that tourism arrivals to Indonesia will be negatively impacted. While protests in Bali have been muted and universally non-violent, tourism stakeholders in Bali fear tourists from the main market of Australia may be deterred from visiting the Island of Bali that has traditionally been Australia’s most favored overseas holiday destination.

As reported in Kompas.com and Terasi.id, said of the proposed changes in the criminal code, of greatest concern are Section 417 on adultery and Section 419 on extra-marital sexual relations that carry the threat of heavy fines and heavy prison sentences. The Head of the Bali Tourism Board (GIPI), Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, speaking to the Press at the Governor of Bali’s Office on Monday, September 23, 2019, commented: “We need to be aware that the Australian market is being hotly contested. With news such as this, competing destinations acquire a great advantage.” Adnyana went on to explain that Bali’s efforts to promote itself as a culture-rich destination, compete on a head-to-head basis with destinations such as Thailand, Malaysia, and others in the region. Admitting he lacked concrete data and information, Adnyana confirmed he had received reports that bookings were being shifted from Bali to Thailand, fuel fears that Bali may be “empty” during the coming October-December time period.

“In fact, many Australians travel as couples, are still young and may become somewhat frightened by news reports (on extramarital relationships) coming from Bali. But, Australians a largely immune to such reports in the media. They know that Bali is very different from other areas (of Indonesia). This is what we must emphasize (to the Australians),” the Head of Bali Tourism explained.

Adding his comments, the Deputy-governor of Bali, Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, said he will attempt to provide more details on proposed changes in the KUHP. Sukawati said a closer examination of the proposed changes in the law shows sub-sections of the law that should more than temper fears of strict enforcement that represent important details largely ignored by the Australian Press.

Citing one example, Sukawati pointed to Section 417 on adultery that could only be investigated by police after a formal complaint from a spouse, parent, or child considering themselves damaged by the alleged act of adultery first filed a formal complaint with the police.  Adding: “This is never explained (by the media).” The Deputy-governor said this incomplete reporting by the foreign media causes potential foreign visitors to incorrectly focus only on the lead section of the law, failing to include the need for a report by an “injured party” to instigate a criminal action. As a result, not only is the new law yet to be ratified, the simple fact remains that there is a very limited chance of a tourist being prosecuted under this section of what remains a proposed law.

Sukawati, who is also known as “Cok Ace,” told the press that the Provincial Government of Bali has already issued a formal declaration address the revision of the KUHP.  In that declaration, the Provincial Government of Bali explained that the revised KUHP remains only a proposal and has yet to be formally ratified. Moreover, based on public protests and input given to the Government, President Joko Widodo and the House of Representative (DPR-RI) have agreed to indefinitely postpone the ratification of the KUHP.

Because of this, said Cok Ace, tourism operators and tourists should remain calm and continue with plans to visit Indonesia without interruption. Adding: “Clearly, the Central Government and the Provincial Government of Bali cannot be in opposition to each other. So our steps remain to explain the current situation and the proposed future changes to the law.”

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