- The President of Indonesia tabled a vote on a proposed penal code that would outlaw sex outside of marriage. The legislation will now be pushed to a new parliament set to convene in October.
- The vote was delayed after it received widespread backlash from legal experts, human rights activists, and Indonesians, many of whom believed it was an overextension of conservative Islamic policies.
- The legislation included other provisions that would limit freedom of speech, reduce rights for religious minorities, and significantly restrict women’s reproductive rights.
- Gay and lesbian sex would also be functionally criminalized under the new penal code, as gay marriage is not allowed in Indonesia.
Widodo Halts Vote
Indonesian President Joko Widodo delayed a vote on a controversial new penal code Friday that, among other things, would criminalize both gay and premarital sex.
The bill was expected to be passed by parliament as early as next week, but Widodo asked lawmakers to postpone the legislation following significant public outcry. The bill will now be held until a new parliament is seated in October.
“After hearing from various groups with objections to aspects of the law, I’ve decided that some of it needs further deliberation,” the president said in a press briefing, before adding that the bill needed further review.
If passed, the new penal code would be a massive overhaul to existing legal systems.
Provisions of the Law
One provision would have punished any instance of sex outside of marriage with six months to a year in jail as well as fines. Though not explicitly stated in the law, it would also effectively outlaw gay and lesbian sex entirely, because Indonesia does not allow same-sex marriages.
According to the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, a nongovernmental organization, millions of Indonesians could risk being jailed under the new law.
Under another article, unmarried couples living together could face up to six months in prison and fines.
The code also included measures that would restrict women’s reproductive rights. Receiving an abortion outside of the exceptions of medical emergencies or rape could be punishable by a maximum of four years in prison.
The bill would additionally restrict access to contraceptives for minors, as well as impose penalties for promoting contraceptives.
Some proposed provisions would target religious minorities, while others would limit freedom of speech, such as prohibiting anyone from insulting the president, vice president, government, and state agencies.
The new law was supported by conservative Islamic groups, who wish to see more sharia-like laws implemented in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
“Indonesia has social values, moral values, also cultural values that are different from those in Western countries,” said Arsul Sani, one of the lawmakers who supported the bill, and who belongs to one of the four Islamist parties in Indonesia’s parliament.
“The state must protect citizens from behavior that is contrary to the supreme precepts of God,” said Nasir Djamil, another parliamentarian who supported the bill from a different Islamic party.
Despite its reputation for being a south-east Asian democracy with relatively moderate Muslims populations and Islamic legal systems, Indonesia has seen a recent trend towards deeper religiosity and conservative Islamic policies, especially at the local level.
In some areas, local governments have enforced aspects of sharia law, such as requiring women to wear hijabs and adopting curfews for women unaccompanied by male relatives.
The government’s efforts to implement elements of sharia law at the national level with the proposed penal code have been troubling to Indonesia’s substantial Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist minority populations, as well as many others.
“If passed, the criminal code will confirm that Indonesia is now becoming an Islamic state,” Andreas Harsono, a senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch said on Twitter.
“Indonesia’s draft criminal code is disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians,” Harsono said in a statement to the media. “The bill’s provisions censoring information about contraception could set back the progress Indonesia has made in recent years to dramatically reduce maternal deaths.”
Other experts echoed Harsono’s sentiment about the spread of Islamic conservativism.
“Across the board, this is a ratcheting up of conservatism. It’s extremely regressive,” said Tim Lindsey, the director of the University of Melbourne’s Center for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society.
Beyond legal experts and activists, a large number of Indonesian citizens also voiced their disapproval of the law.
According to Al Jazeera, an online petition for the bill the be thrown out received nearly half a million signatures, and hundreds of thousands of Indonesians voiced their opposition on social media.
Some also argued that the ban on extramarital sex could discourage tourism and foreign investment, as the law would have applied to foreigners.
This could significantly hurt Indonesia, especially at a time when President Widodo is trying to attract foreign investors and expand tourism to other parts of Indonesia beyond Bali, which is a popular spot for Westerners.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2018, travel and tourism composed 6% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and added 13 million jobs to the economy.
Foreign investors will also likely consider the penal code when deciding where to invest. Some international companies have also expressed concern over how the law would impact their employees in Indonesia.
See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The New York Times) (Reuters)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”