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Should Aussie tourists be worried about the 'Bali Bonk Ban'?

New laws passed by the Indonesian government could make Bali a little less, shall we say, intimate...

Could new laws passed in Indonesia be a cold shower for some Australian tourists?

This week, the Indonesia government has passed a raft of new controversial laws, which apply to everybody within Indonesia, including citizens and tourists.

These include banning sex outside marriage, banning unmarried couples from living together, jail sentences for women who get an abortion and restrictions in political and religious freedoms.

One question that springs to mind is whether these new laws will impact tourism in Indonesia. Should Australians planning a holiday in Bali or any other part of Indonesia be worried?

Speaking on ABC Radio this morning, Australian National University Emeritus Professor Greg Fealy said it’s unlikely that tourists would be affected but not impossible.

“In places like Bali, the police won’t have an interest in scaring away tourists. In reality, the main targets are Indonesian citizens," Professor Fealy said.

However, the very loosely worded law does give police the scope to decide upon the meaning of the law. For example, insulting the president or key institutions of the state – what exactly is an insult? It is not specified. There are also provisions against any ideology that runs counter to the national ideology of Pancasila.

Indonesian society is in a socially conservative phase and the government unilaterally passed this law, following a broad trend in Indonesian politics.

A recent survey asking Indonesians what they saw as moral threats unearthed a particularly high sense of concern from LGBTQI+ behaviour and extramarital sex. According to this poll, there is a  high level of hostility towards sexual minorities in Indonesia and the law reflects that sentiment.

As to whether Australians may find themselves in need of consular support for simply indulging primal urges remains to be seen and is likely to depend on the law's implementation, which will not happen for a few years.

It is very likely that Indonesian law enforcement will use discretion when dealing with tourists.

So our advice for visitors to Indonesia (as with all countries) is to be aware of the local laws and regardless of your opinion, respect the locals and their values.

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Written by: Jenny Evans
Published: 7 December 2022

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