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Indonesia bans sex outside marriage; corporations scratch Jakarta as convention site

Indonesia last rewrote its legal code when it was a Dutch colony, so it was due for an update. But maybe due to a lack of practice, its new code is making news for all the wrong reasons.

According to The New York Times, “Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, cleared a sweeping overhaul of its criminal code on Tuesday, outlawing sex outside of marriage, defamation of the president and sharply expanding its laws against blasphemy.”

That giant scratching sound you just heard is hundreds of global marketing firms writing off Indonesia as a potential site for their annual conventions. What happens in Jakarta stays in Jakarta — and your middle managers might stay there too if they get caught.

Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

“Oh hi, hon. Yeah, sorry, nothing wrong, it’s just that our flight home got delayed so I'll be a little late. How long? Well, they’re saying we should be good to go in three to five years.”

I can’t think Indonesians themselves will be too happy about this lurch back to the times when shrouded members of the church sent infidels into pits filled with poisonous vipers. I mean, we expect this sort of behavior out of the U.S. Supreme Court, but not in an emerging nation like Indonesia.

And it’s not just the criminalization of casual sex. One section of the code makes it a criminal offense to “persuade someone to be a nonbeliever.” If that’s the case, you could arrest the Buffalo Bills.

Funny, Indonesia has been getting a lot of glowing press of late, with this “third-largest democracy” stuff, and how it is considered to be an up and coming political and industrial player on the world stage.

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Indeed, the Times writes, “Opponents also said that the rules threatened the global reputation that Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, has built as a tolerant, widely secular nation.”

The cleric-approved law applies to any consensual sex outside of marriage, and — key part  — applies to foreigners as well. The Times reported that in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Jakarta, Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, warned that “morality clauses attempting to regulate what occurs in a household between consenting adults can have a negative impact on Indonesia’s investment climate.”

I don’t know whether this says more about Indonesia or U.S. business. CEOs know they can get away with low pay, poor benefits and long hours. Just don’t interfere with their right to take a girl home at closing time to show her your investment climate.

The other great risk of this law is that it will give a certain American political party some bright ideas. They’re already only one step away from chopping off your hand as punishment for theft, so any Dark Ages jurisprudence is likely to find a sympathetic ear.

You laugh, but mark my words, before the next year is out, some lawmaker from Oklahoma will introduce an Anti-Whoopie Act that will severely punish anyone who is, you know, normal. And because James Madison didn’t expressly enumerate a right to shack up in the Constitution, you know Justice Alito would sign off.

But I don’t fear for Indonesia. You know how these things work; the preachers and politicians who don’t want others to have illicit sex are the ones who get caught in a fedora and a fake nose walking into a hotel room with a girl named Peaches.

So it seems very likely that the first person caught up in this new law is the person who wrote it himself. After that, you can expect a quick repeal of the statute — at least once he wakes up from the conk on the melon meted out by that true arbiter of justice in such matters, a wife with a frying pan.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: World's third-largest democracy outlaws sex before marriage. OK …