Criminal Code revision deemed a threat to personal liberties - Criminal Code revision deemed a threat to personal liberties

A coalition of religious freedom activists, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activists, and human rights and judiciary watchdogs has rejected the current draft of the Criminal Code bill as it could further restrict personal liberties. 

The coalition, the National Alliance for Criminal Code Reform, said that the Criminal Code bill had confused morality and human decency with legal norms.

The draft would threaten basic civil rights rather than protect them, the alliance said.

Rumadi from the Wahid Institute, a group that advocates religious freedom, criticized the draft saying that it would deal a blow to religious tolerance.

“The draft does not cover religions other than the six religions recognized by the state, it does not protect religious freedom. Other indigenous faiths like Sunda Wiwitan are not protected in the draft,” he said.

The 1945 Constitution actually guarantees religious freedom for religious minorities, but Presidential Decree No. 5/2000, officially recognizes only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

If approved, the bill could punish minority groups, Rumadi said.

“The draft expands the current blasphemy provision from one article into eight articles. But, it does not change the substantial issue of religious protection. Instead, it focuses on how to criminalize those who are thought to be involved in blasphemy,” he said.

Under the current Code, those who conduct blasphemy could face a maximum of five-years imprisonment. The draft broadens the description of blasphemy and breaks it down into eight different categories with individual charges. Each carries a penalty that ranges between two and seven years imprisonment.

The provision is seen as a setback as a 2010 Constitutional Court ruling that upheld the controversial 1965 Blasphemy Law called for its revision.

“The ruling rejected the request to annul the Blasphemy Law, but it also ordered for its amendment and the current draft regulations out that idea,” Rumadi said.

In its ruling, the Court argued that the law was necessary to maintain public order. 

The Court also decided to take the middle road by suggesting that the government provide an official interpretation of the law.

This interpretation provides new meaning to the explanation of Article 1 of the law, which states that aside from acknowledging six religions, the state “leaves alone” followers of other faiths. The Court said the phrase “leaves alone” had to be interpreted as others should not be considered as “ignored”.

Widodo Budidarmo, a program coordinator at Arus Pelangi, an LGBT activist group, said he was concerned that a new provision in the draft, which warrants a maximum five-year jail term for adulterers, could also be applied to sex workers.

Widodo said that the current Code did not clearly categorize prostitutes as criminals. The current Code only targets pimps.

“Yet, 230,000 sex workers could be charged with adultery according to the draft as it fails to delineate between an adulterer and a sex worker,” he said.

The draft bill,for instance, stipulates that prostitutes who hang out in public places could be fined Rp 6 million (US$600). 

The penalty for pimps has increased from a maximum one-year prison term to a minimum of three-years and maximum 12-years imprisonment.

Wahyudi Djafar of Elsam said consensual sex should not be categorized as a crime and it has no victim.

“If all indecent actions are criminalized, there would be more over-criminalization against ‘victimless crimes’,” he said. “The draft provides more laws but less justice,” he said.