Indonesian Antiporn Bill Up for Vote During Ramadan Holiday

Christopher Karwowski
JAKARTA — An antipornography bill that has been stalled in the Indonesian parliament for three years has received a renewed push during the holiday of Ramadan. The bill, which has become a controversial issue among Indonesia’s Muslim populace, has been labeled a Ramadan “gift” by a conservative lawmaker.

"It will be a Ramadan gift," said Mahfudz Siddiq, a Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) member of parliament, according to the Jakarta Post newspaper. He cited the urgent need for the law’s passing due to “widespread moral decadence in Indonesia.”

The proposed legislation defines pornography as sexual material in almost all forms, including drawings, photographs, text, moving pictures, cartoons, poetry, conversations or any other form of communicative messages.

But some say the legislation could go as far as jailing people for kissing in public and would make illegal many traditional forms of art that include frank depictions of sexuality.

Violators of the proposed law could face six years imprisonment and a fine of 1 billion rupiah (approximately $106,000 USD).

Indonesia restricted access to pornographic and violent sites on the Internet after parliament passed a new information bill early this year.

The world's most populous Muslim majority nation, with more than 222 million citizens, has so far stopped short of passing the bill, which aims to shield the young from pornographic material and lewd acts.

Opponents of the bill have attempted to kill it stating that the legislation would threaten Indonesia's tradition of tolerance. Indonesia’s world famous beach resorts, such as Bali, could also be impacted by the legislation. Head of the Bali Tourism Board, Ngurah Wijaya, offered in a recent online article that "the island's tourism will clearly suffer should the house pass the bill," citing the relaxed dress and attitudes of European and Western tourists.

Critics of the bill fear that Indonesia’s militant Muslim groups could use the bill as cover to enforce their own definition of strict Muslim law. Since the 1998 demise of the conservative Suharto government, Indonesia has seen increased vigilante action against red-light areas and liberal publications deemed offensive.

Ramadan began on Sept. 1 and ends with Eid-al Fitri celebrations on Sept. 30.