Get us in your inbox

Photograph: Shutterstock

5 things tourists need to know about Indonesia's new sex laws

No more hanky-panky outside of marriage – for foreigners too

Cheryl Sekkappan
Written by
Cheryl Sekkappan

If you haven't heard, Indonesia has introduced new laws banning any hanky-panky between unmarried couples. That's right, sex outside of marriage is now punishable by up to one year in jail – and that applies to tourists too. 

Announced on Tuesday (December 6), these new laws are part of a wider revision of Indonesia's colonial-era criminal code. A raft of limitations related to political and religious expression were also approved, banning things like the defamation of the president, criticism of state ideology, and the staging of protests without notification.

Bali is a major hotspot for many Singaporean couples, so those with plans to head over for a vacation will likely have burning questions. Does Indonesia's new sex law affect me? How will it be enforced? Here are five things you need to know. 

What are the new rules on sex outside of marriage? 

Don't do it – Indonesia's new laws effectively bans all sex outside of marriage. Adultery is already banned in the country, but with this latest revision, unmarried couples caught doing the deed will be punishable by up to one year in jail. Cohabitation between unmarried couples will also be banned under the new criminal code. 

Are the new laws already in effect? 

If you really want to get steamy in Bali, the good news is that you still have about three years to do so. For now, President Joko Widodo has to sign off on the bill while lawmakers iron out regulations around the new criminal code. 

How will the new laws be enforced? 

We don't know yet how these new laws will be enforced. Will tourist couples have to carry around legal marriage certificates? Will cohabiting expats be checked on by the police? 

One potential bright side – you'd have to really piss off someone in your inner circle to get tipped off to the authorities. The new laws specify that only parents, spouses, or children of suspected offenders can report any potential transgressions – so it's not anyone who can play morality police. 

How does it affect the LGBTQ+ community?

Same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in Indonesia, so the new laws criminalising cohabitation and sex outside of marriage are expected to fall extra hard on members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Do the new laws apply in Bali? 

In short, yes. The new laws apply across Indonesia, but it remains to be seen how individual provinces decide to enforce the laws. Some critics have raised an outcry, worrying that the new laws will frighten tourists away – something that will weigh on the minds of regulators in tourism-driven Bali. In fact, recent reports suggest that hotels in Bali, at least, will likely not ask tourists for marriage documentation. 


The best places to eat and drink in Canggu, Bali
The best offbeat travel destinations in Thailand
Singapore is the world's most expensive city for the eighth time in a decade

Latest news


    The best things in life are free.

    Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

    Loading animation
    Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

    🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

    Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!