SINGAPORE – Indonesia’s constitutional court today turned down a petition to have extra-marital sex banned, the latest culture war skirmish in the world’s biggest Muslim democracy.
A narrow 5-4 majority of judges voted to reject the request made by a group called the Family Love Alliance which said it wants Indonesian law to categorise adultery to mean any relationship that involves extra-marital sex, not just married people having affairs.
The group said it would appeal the decision and is hoping that like-minded MPs will resume the campaign in parliament to criminalise “sexual deviance,” including gay relationships as well as adultery.
Indonesia’s 13,000 islands are home to almost 210 million Muslims – more than any other country – and the practice of Islam has typically been described as “tolerant” relative to counterparts in the Gulf and South Asia. Catholic and Protestant churches, as well as bars and nightclubs, are dotted around the most of the country’s major cities. Dating apps such as Tinder are popular, prompting the recent launch of a counterpart for would-be polygamists, a form of marriage allowed in many Islamic countries.
The past year has seen the rise of groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, known by the Indonesian acronym FPI. Late in 2016 the FPI led hundreds of thousands of white turban-clad protestors onto the streets of capital Jakarta in an effort, ultimately successful, to have Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Protestant Chinese-descent city governor, jailed for allegedly insulting the Koran.
The FPI backed former education minister Anies Baswedan as Purnama’s replacement, and, after winning control of the city in an April election, Baswedan ordered the closing of a notorious hotel and brothel. Ironically, however, FPI leader Rizieq Shihab, who is married, fled to Saudi Arabia earlier this year after being charged under Indonesia’s anti-pornography laws for allegedly sexting with a female admirer via WhatsApp.
*no Telegraph url, as they just lobbed the story in the following day’s print ‘paper sidebar (and minus a byline)..but whatever, scan of that version below