Gay rights hero Rodney Croome AM has urged Australia to take strong action on the world stage to challenge Indonesia’s proposed ban on extramarital sex, including homosexual acts. 

The Muslim majority nation, which neighbours Australia and is one of our biggest trading partners, has finalised a new penal code that criminalises sex outside marriage, promotion of contraception, abortion and more. 

Among several worrying inclusions in a new 628-article bill is Article 417, which punishes extramarital sex with up to one year in prison. 

Marriage equality does not exist in Indonesia, meaning the law will apply to LGBTI people, as well as unmarried heterosexuals.

Croome, spokesperson for the just.equal group, told the Star Observer the Australian government – as well as the Australian business community and tourists – must now take action, with the safety and wellbeing of millions of Indonesians, as well as foreign tourists, at stake.

“The proposed Indonesian ban on extramarital sex, including all LGBTI sexual activity, is abhorrent and must be challenged,” Croome told the Star. 

“The Australian Government must speak out, both directly to the Indonesian Government and together with other nations at ASEAN, the G20 and the UN,” he urged.

“Australian companies should also consider their operations in Indonesia given their staff members will now be at risk of becoming criminals.”

Croome said that if and when the proposed law passes, the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website, and airlines such as QANTAS and Virgin Australia, should issue warnings to Australians travelling to Indonesia. 

With the exception of the renegade province of Aceh, homosexuality has never been illegal in Indonesia’s 74-year history as an independent nation. 

Aceh, a strict Muslim province at the northernmost tip of Sumatra, brought in punishments for homosexuality in 2005, as part of a self-governance deal brokered to pacify the region’s secessionist rebels. 

However, Indonesia’s official national motto is “unity in diversity” and the nation is governed under a foundational philosophical document called Pancasila, which includes “social justice for all Indonesians” and “a just and civilised humanity” among its tenets.

Croome said the developments in Indonesia were a reminder to LGBTI Australians that “things don’t always get better”.

“We need to take a stand when religious homophobia threatens to take our rights away, as is currently the case with the federal Religious Discrimination Bill,” he said.

UPDATE 7:57PM

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has this evening stepped in, postponing plans to outlaw extramarital sex.

In a surprise address, Widodo has ordered his government to delay ratification of the controversial criminal code, The Jakarta Post is reporting.

“I have ordered the Law and Human Rights Ministry to convey [my] stance to the House, that the passing of the criminal code bill into law should be postponed and that the bill should not be passed during the current sitting period,” Widodo, better known as Jokowi, told a televised news conference.

Noting today’s mounting criticism of the proposed changes, the president said the bill would be “thoroughly reviewed”.

Jokowi’s call for a postponement of the bill’s passage comes just four days before the house was scheduled to pass it into law.

An amended bill is now expected to proceed to parliament during the next term of the House of Representatives, which commences on 1 October.

While numerous politicians in Indonesia’s government and opposition have espoused anti-gay rhetoric, Jokowi himself is known to be a moderate and has previously defended LGBTI human rights.

In 2016, he said the “police must act” to defend LGBTI people in the face of increasing anti-gay rhetoric.

” There should be no discrimination against anyone,” he said in October of that year, BBC News Indonesia reported. (Note: highlighted link is in Indonesian.)

Jokowi’s announcement follows a day of global outrage and concern at the prospect of the proposed criminal code becoming law.

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