Indonesia: Defend Democratic and Human Rights against the New Criminal Code!


Water Cannon and Teargas used against Protestors: Fight the Joko Widodo Bourgeois Regime!


Article by Joseph Adams, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), October 2019,




On the 20th September the Widodo Regime introduced a new penal code to replace the old pre Dutch criminal code that was in place. The new code is an attack on basic human and democratic rights. It proposes banning same sex relations between LGBT consenting adults and bans heterosexual relations outside of marriage. Criticism of the president can lead to a jail term of 7 years. Indonesia is a Muslim country which in the past has always allowed freedom of expression to religious minorities. There is a sizeable proportion of Christian and Hindu minorities in the country who can practise their religion. This new criminal code which could see thousands in prison has unleashed a storm of protest.




Opposition to the new Criminal Code grows amongst the Populace




Indonesia is set to pass a new criminal code that could outlaw living together outside marriage, extramarital sex and insulting the president, among a raft of changes that rights groups have decried as disastrous.


The Indonesian parliament has spent decades revising its colonial-era criminal code, creating a 628-article draft bill that could be passed in coming days.


Containing a series of contentious new revisions, a coalition of Indonesian rights groups argue 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.


“Indonesia’s draft criminal code is disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, “Lawmakers should remove all the abusive articles before passing the law.” [1].


Within hours there was a petition with three thousands signatures showing that workers, the urban poor and the masses reject such laws. Widodo, who owes his political support to extreme right wing Islamic parties, finds himself again enacting legislation that is reactionary and doesn’t reflect the wishes of a population in the 21st Century.


“In the world’s most populous Muslim nation, among one of the most controversial inclusions in the draft penal code was the article on adultery, which could see extramarital sex punishable by up to one year in prison.


As well as criminalizing adultery and sex workers, in a country where LGBT people face persecution and rampant discrimination, critics believe the article would in effect criminalize all same-sex conduct.”[2].




Widodo suspends the Criminal Code




On the 21st September Widodo reverses his decision relating to the criminal code and recommends a delay in enacting it through Parliament. This is as a result of the massive opposition to this new law, which is opposed in Indonesia well known for its plethora of different human rights and religious tolerance. Widodo recently has been trying to quell an environmental disaster in Indonesia where forest fires have been raging in Sumatra and Borneo. His actions in West Java (please see my article on West Java ) [3] show a President who is taking on the mantle of dictatorial and authorial powers, a reflection of the huge crisis that this South Asian country faces balancing between support for the USA or China.


“Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo has ordered his government to postpone the ratification of a deeply controversial criminal code that would outlaw living together outside marriage, extramarital sex and insulting the president.


The apparent climb-down came in a surprise address at the state palace on Friday afternoon, and follows an outpouring of anger and criticism about the draconian draft laws.


“I have ordered the law and human rights minister to convey this decision to parliament, to delay the confirmation of the criminal code bill,” the president, better known as Jokowi, told a televised news conference. He said he had decided the bill needed further review after taking into account input from various groups who objected to parts of it”.[4].




Water Cannon and Teargas used against the Opponents of new Criminal Code




Joko Widodo may have postponed the new criminal code but the barbarous and aggressive attitude to minorities and failure to understand a plural society was demonstrated in West Java with his police force using racism and chauvinism against Indigenous Papuans who want independence from Indonesia. The Environmental disaster of fires out of control shows that the regime completely ignores the effects of climate change and the destruction of the planet. The recent decision to use water cannon and teargas against thousands of students demonstrating in Jakarta and other towns and villages shows a regime and president completely out of touch even with bourgeois democratic norms and practices.


“Indonesian police fired water cannon and tear gas to break up protests on Tuesday, as tens of thousands of students gathered in cities nationwide over issues that included a new criminal code that penalizes adultery and revised laws on corruption Thousands gathered in the front and back entrances to Jakarta’s parliament building, demanding to meet with parliament speaker Bambang Soesatyo.


Soesatyo held a news conference inside the building urging calm, but refused to answer questions from reporters on whether the vote would be delayed until new parliament takes office, repeating the vote could happen in the current term.


Police then fired water cannon and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.


Indonesia’s benchmark stock index dropped more than 1% on Tuesday, amid worries over domestic political tensions, said Fakhrul Fulvian, an economist with Trimegah Sekuritas”. [5]




Perspectives of the RCIT




Since his recent election victory Joko Widodo has pursued an open bourgeois capitalist policy of oppression, repression of minorities and attacks on human democratic rights. The RCIT puts forward the following demands for a socialist transformation of Indonesian society, to unite the urban poor and oppressed, to overthrow the Widodo regime and establish a Workers Government based on the rural and urban poor and the oppressed.


* Full support for demonstrations and protests by students against the new proposed criminal code. Organize assemblies at the workplaces, the schools and universities, the districts and villages!


* For an undefinite General Strike to remove the Widodo government. Defy the Criminal code!


* For armed self-defense units of the workers, the urban and rural poor to protect communities and minority groups threatened with imprisonment under the new criminal code.


* Defend democratic rights! No police state! Down with all repressive laws! Solidarity with the resistance!


* Fight for a Workers and Popular Government!