President of Indonesia Joko Widodo has moved to delay the country’s planned parliament vote on a new bill that will outlaw sex outside marriage along with gay sex.
The controversial penal code has been under criticism since it was introduced. Now, Widodo’s decision is dividing conservative Muslims that support the new bill. Reuters reported that the president announced his decision on Friday pointing out that further consideration was needed for the 14 articles. Those who oppose the bill say it violates the rights to free speech as well as discriminates against women, LGBT community and religious minorities.
The bill also calls to penalize women with four-year jail time if they undergo abortions unless medical emergency or rape is involved. Strong support behind the bill is attributed to Indonesia being the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world.
Nasir Djamil of the opposing Prosperous Justice Party tells Reuters: “Indonesia is not a liberal country.” He criticized the president’s decision as being influenced by foreign governments. Djamil noted that Australia’s move to warn its citizens of the punishments they could face for extramarital sex if the bill is passed affected Widodo. A large portion of Indonesia’s tourist market is occupied by Australians.
The country’s largest Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama supports the bill saying it reflects “the character and the personality of the Indonesian people and the nation”.
Rights groups in the country have greeted Widodo’s decision with open arms, urging him to move towards blocking the penal code altogether. On the other hand, Tunggal Pawestri, an activist for gender rights, created an online petition urging the country’s leader to veto the bill which he described as “absurd.” It has currently gained 560,000 signatures as of this writing.