The island of Bali, the popular tourist hotspot with over 6.2 million international arrivals in 2019, was hugely hit during COVID. So much so that in 2021, it had only 45 visitors … you read that right. But after Indonesia reopened this year, the glory days of the Island of the Gods, a place hugely reliant on tourism revenues, have returned. So why is this relevant? Well, there has been a lot of curiosity and confusion over a new law that criminalizes sex outside of marriage.
On Tuesday, Indonesia's parliament announced its plans to criminalize sex outside marriage. While it will take three years for the law to happen, it applies to both locals and foreigners. The punishment for adultery or premarital relations could face up to one year in jail or fines. Critics say that it could put foreigners off visiting the country, as well as the primarily Hindu island of Bali.
"From our point of view as tourism industry players, this law will be very counterproductive for the tourism industry in Bali -- particularly the chapters about sex and marriage… If these laws are really implemented later, tourists might be (subjected) to jail and this will harm tourism," said Putu Winastra, chairman of Indonesia's largest tourism group, the Association of The Indonesian Tours And Travel Agencies.
"The state cannot manage morality. The government's duty is not as an umpire between conservative and liberal Indonesia," said Bivitri Susanti, a law expert from the Indonesia Jentera School of Law.
"The G20 was great for us who had been out of work during the pandemic …. It really brought Bali back to life," said local guide Ken Katut in Bali, who now worries that the momentum won't last because of the new criminal code.