a building on a lake with mountains in the background

With an air conditioned World Cup in Qatar, where rainbows are being treated as one of the most dangerous symbols in the world, you’d think the world really couldn’t get any weirder in 2022.

And then, right on cue, in swoops Indonesia and Bali along with it, to prove that we’ve got so many layers of weird left to uncover. The country just passed a law banning sex between unmarried people, and shockingly, it includes tourists.

“Living together” is also to be punishable by up to six months in prison, which means two people sharing a hotel room could potentially be in jeopardy.

Yes, after Indonesia and Bali struggled through one of the wackiest travel reopening plans in all of tourism only to become the darling of the travel rebirth, its now putting it all in major jeopardy. Tourists will now be threatened with hard jail time for any sex between unmarried adults. Yikes.

If you’ve got Bali or Indonesian vacation plans, here’s what you need to know about this oddly timed, dystopian and totally unenforceable law, which is ripe for corruption.

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Indonesia’s Bizarre Sex Ban

Weeks ago, a proposal making its way through Indonesia’s criminal code caught people by surprise. The country planned to ban any extramarital sex, while further curbing the freedoms of those within the country.

And in swift and worrying fashion, the bill passed. Indonesia has passed the law, and from the year 2025 onward, anyone having sex outside of marriage faces up to a year in jail as a result. Sadly, this applies to tourists, and includes semi-autonomous regions like Bali.

And yes, enforcement of the new law is theoretically delayed for three years, so travel now. As the law is read, two fully consenting adults in a committed, but not married relationship could quite literally be thrown in jail. In such an iconic place for romance, it’s a real threat.

Living Together Is Illegal Too?

Unmarried couples found “living together” would also face up to six months in prison. And this is perhaps the most worrying of all. Would any two unmarried people who share a hotel room be found guilty of living together?

The new morality and blasphemy laws have been strongly opposed by most in the business and tourism sectors, and are seen as disproportionately impacting those from LGBTQ communities, as well as women and visitors.

It’s hard to see how any unmarried tourists wouldn’t be putting themselves at risk under these new laws, if they so much as share a hotel room.

Rice fields of the island of Bali at sunrise, Indonesia

No Stranger To Corruption Allegations

Unfortunately, authorities in Indonesia are no strangers to allegations of corruption and bribery. Could tourists be blackmailed, with the threat for jail time? Absolutely.

It’s quite difficult to imagine that substantial evidence would need to be presented to create police claims, and any subsequent ideas of evidence collection are far too horrifying to contemplate.

The laws passed unanimously with 600 votes, reflecting a strong desire for the largely muslim country to take control of its local laws and beliefs, following Dutch colonial rule. Elaine Pearson, the director of Human Rights Watch told the BBC

“This is a huge setback for a country that has tried to portray itself as a modern Muslim democracy”.

Human Rights Watch

Tourism Is A Moment In Time

There are countries I’ve adored that I’ll never visit again. There are others I would’ve never considered, which have evolved into places I’d love to explore. Travel is very much about tolerance, understanding and intrigue into other cultures.

But the risk of jail time for people exercising what should be a universal right to love who you love, how you wish to love them, is a step too far.

If these laws come into punishable effect in 2025 as they have passed, it’s hard to imagine that the risk is worth the beautiful views. The only hope is that the last time laws such as these passed, wide spread protests quashed them. Could it happen again?

There aren’t many places offering the natural beauty of Indonesia and its islands like Bali or the Gilli’s but there are some. If they’re safer, they’ll win new visitors.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. It is their country, so if you don’t like their laws, don’t visit. Additionally, it is not your place to make statements such as, “But the risk of jail time for people exercising what should be a universal right to love who you love, how you wish to love them, is a step too far.”

    1. I disagree on the latter. I’m an idealist who believes that some opportunities and freedoms should be universal and that there’s no good counter argument to not allowing them.

      1. You censored my comment, shame on you. For an “idealist”, you should believe in freedom of speech.

  2. It’s funny how you call rules around sex as dystopian and weird, what about rules in the west against protesting and potential bank account freezing by those who protest against the government (Canada did this). Maybe look at your own side of the world first

    1. Thank you for illustrating why the internet is so messed up. Here we are talking about issue A, and you inject random issue B into the mix to try and make issue A less of a thing, when all that really matters here is issue A being messed up. Bugger off.

      1. When everyone is talking about the issue A and no one is reporting the issue B it is up to us regular citizens to criticise quasi journalists who only focus on the issues outside the West.

        1. There are plenty of outlets and stories and forums to talk about other issues. Just don’t start arresting people for having sex. That’s all.

  3. How will they actually know if a couple is married or not? This is a genuine question. Where I live now, in the vast majority of married couples the women don’t take over the man’s surname. So will hotes in Bali request from every couple to carry a marriage certificate?

  4. ok have in hand Passport, Vaccination Card, Mobile tracking App, Marriage Certificate/ wad of cash!
    having dealt with immigration and customs at Bali’s airport many times, this is perfectly in line with their ( strange concept of ) friendliness, openness and welcoming of tourists/ foreigners

    obstacles end up being something to be avoided, not overcome !!

  5. I’m in Bali now and spoken to many locals. They say this law is loose in regards to foreigners. Only family or close friends can report sex before marriage, certainly not hotel staff or the like. It’s not an issue.

    1. Anything you can legally be called upon based on the arbitrary decision or will to enforce of others is by definition, an issue.

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