Criminal Law News & Current Affairs

By Kate Gunther


Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll

We all know one of these depraved activities is already outlawed in Bali on pain of death (or extended periods in custody). Drugs have long been illegal at the favourite holiday destination, and while the severe punishments are not consistent with our own, Australians are accustomed to the criminalisation of certain substances. But now, Indonesian politicians have set their sights on banning not only drugs, but sex!

Strictly speaking, the ban is only proposed to apply to fornication (being sex between unmarried people) – but to the Aussie traveller they are often one and the same. With marriage rates on the decline and divorce rates on the rise, many Australians are de facto or single and ready to mingle – with Bali often being on the top of the list for hook-up locations or romantic getaways for couples, married and unmarried alike.

Sex between unmarried people is rife in modern Australian society and surely prolific on the party island, yet it may soon be made illegal in Indonesia and carry serious criminal penalties. The controversial bill canvassed by the Indonesian government proposes to amend the Indonesian Criminal Code to include the following new offences and penalties:

  1. A prohibition on unmarried couples living together, carrying a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment;


  1. A prohibition on sexual intercourse between anyone who is not married, carrying a maximum penalty of 1 year imprisonment;


  1. A prohibition on advertising contraception to minors, carrying a term of imprisonment (not yet determined).

The proposed offences and their staggering maximum penalties appear to have a strong basis in religious conservatism. It seems Australians may have to give up this much-loved tourist destination as these imminent new laws simply do not accord with the sexual liberties we have come to expect in the 21st century.

However, it is not all bleak news, Bali tourism have only yesterday assured us the national “sex ban” does not apply to Australians – at least not yet. Drugs on the other hand, are still as illegal as ever in Bali, so please do not make the mistake of thinking the Aussie tourist exception will assist you in that regard. It also seems that while the Indonesian government has put the proposed bill on hold in light of the crippling effect it would have on Bali tourism, the bill may still be debated and even passed, and it is unclear whether it will ultimately apply to Australian tourists.

We at Aulich sincerely hope these laws do not inspire some of our more conservative politicians in Australia to make similar proposals. If the resistance to the recent NSW laws to decriminalise abortions or federal laws to allow gay marriage are any indication, there are certainly plenty of out-of-touch politicians still harbouring conservative views and hell-bent on curtailing individual freedoms. Fortunately, we have a hunch that some politicians who are outspoken against abortion or gay marriage on religious conservative grounds, may not be quite as outspoken against extra-marital sexual intercourse, which has been rife up on The Hill for many years. While some politicians may be eager to control what women and homosexuals can and cannot do with their bodies, no such laws are ever likely to apply to straight men in Australia, so perhaps straight couples can benefit from that and continue to fornicate to their heart’s content. Homosexual couples on the other hand, will likely always be in the minority, but the widespread support for homosexual rights in recent years is encouraging and suggests they, along with straight people, are not likely to be subject to the harsh sexual regressions proposed in Bali.