Indonesia’s New Criminal Code Outlaws Adultery, Cohabiting Couples, Dark Magic

An Acehnese couple sitting together as Shariah policemen patrol in Banda Aceh on April 8, 2012. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry

An Acehnese couple sitting together as Shariah policemen patrol in Banda Aceh on April 8, 2012. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry

Indonesia’s revision of its outdated Criminal Code includes proposed sanctions against cheating spouses, cohabiting couples and sorcerers accused of performing black magic.

The revised 500-plus page Criminal Code consists of 766 articles detailing sentences for everything from petty theft to premeditated murder. Included in the draft are harsh sanctions for seemingly benign offenses like living together outside of wedlock, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, the same punishment for those convicted of prostitution.

The revised Criminal Code needs to pass through the House of Representatives before it becomes law. The document was submitted to lawmakers on Wednesday, a source with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights said.

The ministry argued that the current maximum sentence for convicted adulterers, nine months in prison, had failed to curb extramarital affairs in Indonesia. Under the proposed revision, cheating spouses would face a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

“[The] government proposed [the new penalties] because the sanction for adultery is too light,” ministry spokesman Goncang Raharjo said. “In line with current developments, we increased the sanctions to prevent people from easily committing adultery.”

Living together outside of wedlock was previously frowned up, but not illegal in Indonesia.

The current Criminal Code also lacked articles on witchcraft or dark magic. Under the revised code, those found guilty of using black magic to cause “someone’s illness, death, mental or physical suffering,” face up to five years in jail or Rp 300 million ($31,000) in fines, according to

The penalties can be increased by a third if the sorcerer offered to perform a spell for compensation, the Criminal Code read. It is also illegal to claim you have dark magical powers in the first place.

Good or “white” magic is still legal under the revised code.

Indonesia’s Criminal Code was adopted from Dutch law and drafted in 1918. It was last revised in 1958 and, until recently, considered the theft of anything over Rp 250 (three cents) a serious offense. The ministry has long promised to bring the Criminal Code up to date and adjust crimes and fines in line with the current value of the rupiah.

But this latest revision also comes with proposed laws regulating morality, a section law mostly restricted to local bylaws under the old code.

Ministry of Justice and Human Rights officials stood behind the revisions, explaining that all of the articles, including those concerning magic and other paranormal activities, were drafted for the good the people.

A lawmaker with the House of Representative’s commission on law and justice agreed with the proposed articles on witchcraft, as long as the charges were based on fact, not conjecture.

“It should be based on fact finding, not on someone’s statement,” Khatibul Umam Wiranu, of the Democratic Party, said.

Celebrity psychic Ki Joko Bodo, who lives in Jakarta mansion modeled after Borobodur temple, accused the government of basing laws on fantasy. Joko Bodo worried that police would use the new law to charge anyone accused of sorcery.

“They cannot prove it and can charge people on assumption,” he said. “But just let them [the government] do it. It won’t be effective.”

Celebrity psychic Ki Joko Bodo at his Borobudur-style mansion. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Celebrity psychic Ki Joko Bodo at his Borobudur-style mansion. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Articles punishing cheating spouses and cohabiting couples garnered both words of support and condemnation from lawmakers.

“Adultery is the beginning of many social problems,” Khatibul said. “The sentence should deter offenders [and] nine months is not long enough. I agree that the sentence should be increased, but five years is too long.”

He also welcomed the proposed laws against premarital cohabiting because under the current code there is no way to punish couples who choose to live together.

A commissioner from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) urged the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to focus on rape and child molestation.

“I think [adultery and cohabiting] should be regulated, but it is more important to focus on the rape of children,” Nurcholis said.

The new Criminal Code also expands the definition of rape to include both oral and anal rape.

Another commissioner, Sandrayati Moniaga, said the articles regulating morality were a bad idea.

“Adultery and cohabiting are personal problems,” Sandrayati said. “It’s none of the government’s business, it’s the person’s business with God. The state should not intervene in personal rights. Besides, how will they prove it?”

Both commissioners doubted police could find enough evidence to convict someone of using black magic to harm another person.

A 32-year-old employee of a private firm in South Jakarta agreed with the proposed laws against adultery and cohabiting.

“I agree [with the new laws] because it will bring us back to our Eastern roots,” Rahmat Surbakti said. “We have all seen celebrities on TV behaving improperly and it isn’t a nice thing to see.”

Not everyone welcomed the proposed changes.

The government should be offering protections to long-term couples who live together, not punishing them, Irine Roba, 29, said.

“The government better look at another country, like Australia, [where] people who live together as a couple and are not married are protected under the law,” Irine said. “If this revision is implemented in Indonesia, women will be at a disadvantage. And what about the rights of children who are born out of wedlock?

“This is so unwise in so many aspects.”

  • Herbert

    In fact adultery is a sources of many other tragedies. The punishment must bring enough deterrent effect.

    • Dunc

      BUt Herb – it will be summarily bought off by the rich and used as a tool to oppress poor – It is ficking stupid
      Besides that the women will always be blamed !!

      • Herbert

        The shadow of “the rich oppress the poor” might be found in every corner of the laws. But it is not an excuse not to bring in a law for the peace and order of the Society. It is rather a matter of how to achieve the deserved resulted.

        • Duncan


          Every aspect of law is available to buy – this is nothing more than a sop to radical Islam

          Like in Aceh and West Java the poor people are subject to the violence for the most minute crime whilst those with cash and power NEVER get punished for often the most heinous crimes. Even when it is applied it will be applied mainly to women – women blamed as usual

          Tell me how the hell this will be different?

          The real route is education NOT legislation

          • Herbert

            You’ve assumed that violence or other nature of crime, mostly if not only, happens between the rich and the poor. A poor may also rape a poor as the rich may also rape the rich.
            Sure, better education means better operations of the laws. But we cannot wait until this happens if it is not already there. Probably we cannot be waiting for the most perfect moment but to make every moment more perfect.

          • Duncan

            No – I have assumed that people with money will/can/do buy their way out of trouble whilst people in poverty get zero justice
            This is nothing other than a means to extort (from people with money) and oppress (people without money)
            This means it will be summarily applied because until you can trust the judicial process that is always the way.
            But perhaps worst of all 95% of the blame will be laid at the feet of women, it is yet another method to reinforce male-centric Islamic laws upon an already oppressed gender

          • Herbert

            If your assumption is right and if a person loves justice, that person should never get rich. The base is “we are all equal before the law”. That is what we should do all our best to achieve. We will share the dream and make it come true.

          • TalkingEid

            So we can’t rely on Indonesians to be ‘good’ through their own wishes and desires, and must force them to be ‘good’ – at least according to your moral compass? Please correct me if I have misunderstood.

    • Serigala-Berbulu-Domba

      “In fact adultery is a source of many other tragedies” are you speaking from personal experience? And if so, do you feel you should be punished by a prison sentence?

    • TalkingEid

      Money is the cause of many tragedies – should we outlaw money too?

  • Dewi Thompson

    “Another commissioner, Sandrayati Moniaga, said the articles regulating morality were a bad idea.” “Adultery and cohabiting are personal problems,” Sandrayati said. “It’s none of the government’s business, it’s the person’s business with God. The state should not intervene in personal rights. Besides, how will they prove it?”

    LOL I would think that many in the DPR will agree with this statement especially within the PKS faction. Any takers on a bet that this clause is taken out.

    • Valkyrie1604

      You offering a bet? (Gambling is illegal you know?)

      I’ll up the ante, either you’re a donkey or I am. The clause will stick and be passed.

      • Dewi Thompson

        I don’t know have you been aware of several videos that have come out showing DPR members in bed with someone other than their spouse and mostly other DPR members. This is one they may put to bed before the vote takes place thus the lobbying against in in this article.

    • Willy

      Ad hominem… Rather than arguing why the quotation is wrong, you prefer to attack the person who says it. Just so you know, it doesn’t make the quotation wrong even though the person who says it is immoral..

  • Serigala-Berbulu-Domba

    Black magic…what utter horse pukky.

    As for adultery/ cohabiting – fortunately one can rely on the PKS to fight these aspects (of the proposed law) tooth and nail…and for probably the first time ever, an opportunity for PKS to do something positive in the National interest.

  • Valkyrie1604

    Yes, I can remember the Golkar cadre, Yahya Zaini involved with a dangdut/actress from Surabaya. And of course Arifinto.

    You stated several? I am keen to know more. Mind sharing?

    Hahaha You don’t get it do you? They’re betting on high moral values to push their agendas through and come out smelling like roses. Of course I am aware of this hypocrisy.

  • TalkingEid

    When? Not much sign of it in RI up to now Herbert.

    • Herbert

      I always think positive.