Uniting International Mission Executive Secretary (Asia) Rev John Barr has expressed concern that the adoption of an Anti-Pornography Bill by Indonesian legislators highlights fears about a move in Indonesia from a secular, pluralist state to an Islamic state with the widespread implementation of Syariah law.
In October, the Indonesian parliament passed a controversial anti-pornography law which defined pornography as “pictures, sketches, photos, writing, voice sound, moving pictures, animation, cartoons, conversation, gestures, or other communications shown in public with salacious content or sexual exploitation that violate the moral values of society.”
While there are some exceptions concerning sexually explicit cultural and artistic material, offenders will face up to 15 years in prison.
The maximum penalty for lending or downloading pornography is 4 years in prison or a $190,000 fine while anyone caught “displaying nudity” in public could spend up to 10 years in goal.
Rev Phil Erari of the Evangelical Church in Irian Jaya said the law could legitimise actions by groups in all parts of the country, including Papua, in order to ‘restore order’ among people who wear only the koteka (penis gourd) or women in their traditional dress, who will be fined from Rp. 500,000 to Rp 1,500,000 or given custodial sentences.
“It will also kill the artistic endeavours of the Asmat people which display the human body in full.” Mr Erari said.
Some observers are concerned the law will encourage vigilante groups like the Islamic Defender’s Front who have targeted night clubs, and brothels over the past few years with the use of violence.
The predominantly Hindu province of Bali and the predominantly Christian provinces of North Sulawesi and Papua have rejected the Anti-Pornography Bill.
Several provinces will refuse to enact the bill while others say they will not enforce it.
They believe the Anti-Pornography Bill is an attack on the Pancasila State (that promotes religious pluralism) and it will threaten “cultural harmony” of the nation. Some say the bill will lead to a “process of disintegration”.
The President of Indonesia is being called on to annul the law.
Mr Barr believes the Anti-Pornography Bill threatens the future of Indonesia as a secular, pluralist state.
“There are serious issues here.
“Minority communities including the Christian churches have expressed their concerns to me and the Uniting Church in Australia about what this legislation means ever since the bill was originally drafted in 1999.”
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