Protest against the Indonesian draft criminal code that could see unmarried couples News from the world imprisoned

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Indonesia should approve a new penal code that could outlaw cohabitation outside marriage and offend the president, amid a series of controversial new measures that rights groups have called disastrous.

The Indonesian parliament has spent decades revising its penal code from the colonial era, creating a bill of 628 articles that could be approved in the coming days.

Containing a series of controversial new revisions, a coalition of Indonesian rights groups argues that the new code violates the rights of women, religious minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, as well as freedom of speech and association.

"The Indonesian draft criminal code is disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians," he said. Andreas Harsono, senior researcher of Indonesia at Human Rights Watch, "Lawmakers should remove all offensive articles before approving the law".

Activists have invited President Joko Widodo to delay the bill, saying that significant revisions were needed.

In the most populous Muslim nation in the world, among the first most controversial inclusions in the draft penal code was the article on adultery, which could see extramarital sex punishable up to a year in prison, too if Thursday morning reports indicated that the article was removed at a legislative meeting on Wednesday evening.

A separate article states that couples living together outside of marriage could be sentenced to six months in prison, a crime that can be denounced by a village chief, while another specifies that only health workers and "competent volunteers" can discuss contraception and family planning.

"The provisions of the bill that censor information on contraception could push back the progress made by Indonesia in recent years to drastically reduce maternal deaths," Harsono said.

Subsequent articles claim that only doctors have the right to decide on abortions. According to the bill, a woman who illegally interrupted her pregnancy could risk four years in prison.

Indicative of the growing religious conservatism of Indonesia, the new project further recognizes any "living law" that could be interpreted to include local sharia or customary local laws, of which there are hundreds across the country that discriminate against women, LGBT people and religious minorities.

The new code also seems destined to restore Indonesia's considerable press freedom, making it a crime to insult the president and vice-president.

This week, in the wake of another problematic law that should weaken a critical anti-corruption commission, the media published shocking caricatures of the president – content that could be considered illegal in the future.

The new code will further expand the existing blasphemy law and outline a 10-year prison sentence for the association with organizations that follow a Marxist-Leninist ideology.

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