If you have been reading any Indonesian newspaper or internet website lately, chances are that you have heard about the new Pornography Bill.
This is an initiative, which could come into law in October to ‘protect’ Indonesia from decadent western influences like pornography and overly sexual displays in public. It shall ensure and uphold public morality. Even TIME magazine had a lengthy article recently.
A lot of controversy has been stirred up already, on what is pornography, erotic or indecent and from what Indonesians should be protected. The irritations go so far, that many fear that Indonesia’s and especially Bali’s liberal tourism can come to a complete standstill, if citizens and tourists have to cover any displays of skin in public and should refrain from normal acts, which are considered harmless elsewhere:
So what’s the buzz about?
The bill was brought into parliament initially 3 years ago by conservative Muslims, mainly the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) – but was soon taken up by ruling party Golkar as well, as they saw a chance of bolstering their swindling support in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Although the country is overwhelmingly moderate and most Indonesians see the proposed actions as going too far, there were over the years nevertheless plenty of initiatives of Islam hardliners to introduce Sharia law or tightening other liberal laws and policies, this bill is just one example.
“We have to stop this drift toward moral liberalization” was stated by the chairman of the country’s second largest Muslim organization. It fits even into the larger goal by Islamists of erecting Islamic caliphates in the middle of Southeast Asia.
Sounds pretty much like Malaysia? You bet.
Luckily the bill was suspended several times amidst demonstrations and resistance among the population and mainly Hindus in Bali, as it ‘overlaps with existing regulations’ and would trample local customs in a country of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity.
What is questioned?
Here are some examples of the range of questioned actions, which could be considered a display of “sexual provocations” and could be prosecuted with heavy fines or even arrest in the future:
- Local and foreign Teenagers who show bellybuttons in public or wear short skirts
- Tourists in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia who sunbath bikini-clad or even topless
- Tribes in Papua, who run around naked since centuries, only dressed with shorts if at all
- Balinese traditions to wear tight blouses with transparent elements, wearing of shoulder-free dresses, performing dances and other thousand-year-old arts
- Kissing in public of non-married couples or couples of the same sex
- Old grandmothers in rural villages who walk the earth topless, due to humidity and hot weather conditions
- Paintings depicting sexual motives, erotic objects or nudity
In western countries, pornography is mainly restricted to media material, like magazines, DVD’s, videos, the internet – with the passing of this bill that would be mixed up substantially with all kinds of day to day things, including music, dances, cultural activities up to dress code and behavior.
Dangers for Bali and beyond
Although the bill would be in place nationwide, obviously the Hindu island of Bali would have to suffer most, as it sees substantial numbers of tourists and customs and culture are very different from the Islamic parts of the country.
Tourists would probably stay home, if they weren’t allowed to swim or surf in their usual attire on the island’s many beaches or if they even would risk of being fined or arrested. With Bali accounting for up to 80% of Indonesia’s tourism income, this could be fatal for the industry as a whole.
Indonesia’s motto ‘Unity in Diversity’ would be under threat as well, as for many cultures, tribes and ethnic groups around the archipelago, various thousand-year-old activities, traditions and customs would have to be adjusted severely and new ‘medieval rules’ would have to be enforced.
This is simply ridiculous!
With the approach of Idul Fitri, or the end of Ramadan, the fasting month, the passing of the bill was delayed – once again, much to the dismal of mentioned Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). The next meetings are scheduled for after Idul Fitri, with political organizations like the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry, the Communications and Information Ministry and the State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment.
Let’s hope for the best, that these are still settled in reality and finally throw out the bill for good.
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