Indonesia Passes Far-Reaching Anti-Porn Law

30 Oct

JAKARTA: Indonesian lawmakers rammed a far-reaching anti-pornography law through parliament on Thursday, despite howls of protest by artists and religious minorities who say it threatens national unity.

Lawmakers voted by an overwhelming majority to back a modified version of the law, which criminalises all works and “bodily movements” deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality.

The law has been championed by the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and other Islamic parties and is being backed by the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

It has prompted protests across Indonesia, with critics saying it could threaten traditional cultures from temple statues on Hindu Bali Island to penis sheaths on tribesmen in Christian and animist Papua province.

Two of the parties opposing the bill walked out of parliament before the vote, saying its definition of pornography remained too broad, despite an exhaustive revision process.

“We feel this law is being passed by force without taking into consideration the feelings of the community such as artists and cultural workers,” said Tjajo Kumolo, a lawmaker from the Democratic Party of Struggle, which walked out.

But backers of the bill said the law left space for legitimate artistic expression and traditional cultures and would not see bikini-clad tourists driven off beaches in places such as Bali.

“This law will ensure that Islam is preserved and guaranteed. It is also not in the interest of any specific religion. The law is also meant to preserve arts and culture and not destroy them,” said Hakim Sori Muda Borhan, a lawmaker from Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party.

“This law isn’t discriminatory. It should be implemented on the ground so that pornography will be eradicated in time,” said parliamentary chairman Hidayat Nur Wahid, from the PKS.

Activists on Bali, where opposition to the law has ignited protests of thousands of people, said they would mount a legal challenge arguing the law violates freedom of expression.

“We’re going to encourage civil disobedience if our challenge to the porn law fails,” said Gusti Ngurah Harta, an activist from the Bali People’s Component, which represents artists.

Muslims make up roughly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million population, which also contains sizeable Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian minorities.

– AFP/so

Channel News Asia

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