bali-indonesia-rice-fields
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Just last week, Indonesia passed a rather draconian law which sees people facing potential jail time for having sex before marriage, or living together before marriage.

Rather shockingly, tourists and tourist centric areas of Indonesia, like Bali, were not spared from any potential enforcement, which is slated to come into effect from 2025. A happily vacationing couple, as the law is written, could theoretically be arrested for consummating the relationship without a ring on it.

The idea of being locked up, for going on vacation with a love interest seems pretty dystopian. Accordingly, most tourism industry stakeholders strongly opposed the new law and after its unanimous passing, attempts are now being made to quell any travel fears.

Bali’s Governor, Wayan Koster is among the first letting tourists known not to worry, saying they shouldn’t be impacted. It’s an important assurance, particularly for a law so vague and so based on hearsay, in a country which ranks 96th on the corruption index.

bali-indonesia-rice-fields
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Bali Claims Tourists Won’t Be Impacted

There are many potentially negative impacts of Indonesia’s new “sex” law which fall outside the purview of this travel blog. Tourism impacts however, are entirely critical to understand.

Balinese Governor, Wayan Koster, has assured international media that visitors are not the focus of the laws and that those on the island of Bali should feel at ease.

“(People) who visit or live in Bali would not need to worry with regard to the entry into force of the Indonesian Criminal Code.There will be no checking on marital status upon check-in at any tourism accommodation, such as hotels, villas, apartments, guest houses, lodges and spas,”

Wayan Koster, Governor of Bali

Widening Indonesian Tourism?

The timing of this new law in the world’s largest Muslim country by population is interesting, in terms of international tourism goals.

In recent years, Indonesia expressed a strong desire to bring international tourism to other areas of the stunning country, both to relieve the strain on natural resources and to increasingly share the positive economic impacts more broadly.

Bali has done incredibly well to get ahead of the messaging of this worrisome new law, and it may make a tremendous different. It’s hard to imagine international tourists will be as likely to brave other areas of the country where such protections don’t exist.

Bali has proclaimed it won’t be enforcing these laws on tourists in any way, and for now, it’s an important distinction.

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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8 Comments

  1. Makes sense for the governor to attempt to head off the impact, but I personally would not be reassured. There is nothing keeping anyone with a grudge against an unmarried couple for whatever/no reason from reporting them to the police, regardless of the governor/tourism industry/enforcement guidelines. Given the conservative trend in Indonesia generally, situations like that could easily arise for tourists, despite Bali’s generally hospitable reputation, and get quite uncomfortable. A shame, given the wonderful memories many of us have of Bali.

  2. Bali is not Muslim. I don’t think either the commenter or the blogger understand what that means.
    As a generalization Balinese are into acceptance and tolerance, given they are Hindu. Indonesia, which is Muslim, is obviously into the opposite.

    1. The Balinese were into acceptance and tolerance as they were and remain religious minorities in a Muslim-majority Indonesia; and minorities tend to have a greater self-serving need to advocate for acceptance and tolerance and to make and maintain “external” allies. The idea that Hindus are generally any more tolerant and accepting is unfortunately also a weakening one, as is most evident in the largest Hindu-majority country in the world.

    2. I’m quite aware of Bali’s Hindu majority history, and their hospitable nature which I mentioned. I am also aware of the stated guidelines GUWonder mentions, which I also referred to, whereby only family members are entitled to report related issues. And as Gilbert indicated, the governor’s position regarding leaving tourists alone.

      None of these mitigating factors changes my concern that Indonesia’s broader conservative trend could easily create individual situations, even in Bali, where none of those factors would stop an aggrieved party from initiating complaints with local authorities, who often don’t follow guidelines perfectly in both developing and developed countries.

  3. The “pro-family” law against extra-marital intimate relations and extra-marital cohabitation by those in intimate extra-marital relationships in Indonesia is reportedly only to be reported and punished as a crime if: a) the spouse or child of the “suspect” reports the “suspect” for such activity; or a parent of a child (adult or otherwise) reports such activity involving their own child. It also doesn’t go into effect for at least two years as far as I know.

    There will continue to be no need to carry around a marriage certificate — real or fraudulent — or otherwise prove marriage in order to avoid being prosecuted and convicted under the “pro-family” items forbidding adultery and other extra-marital relationships involving sexual intimacy in Indonesia. If anything, having such documents along in Indonesia will become an even worse idea in the future than now.

    The most troublesome thing with this newly passed law go beyond just the “meddling with other’s ‘private’ lives”; it goes toward suppressing or otherwise having a chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression more broadly.

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