Bali’s New Sex Law Brings Concerns Among Tourists

New Bali's Sex Law Brings Concerns Among Tourists In Bali

A contentious new law banning cohabitation and extramarital sex has been passed by Parliament. Experts are concerned about the law because it will affect foreign tourists and expats as well as local citizens.

Although it won’t be implemented for at least another three years, industry insiders tell CNN that the new criminal code may discourage visitors from traveling there and harm the nation’s reputation abroad, depriving it of crucial tourism income.

A challenge for travel agencies

“From our point of view as tourism industry players, this law will be very counterproductive for the tourism industry in Bali — particularly the chapters about sex and marriage,” said Putu Winastra, chairman of the country’s largest tourism group, the Association of The Indonesian Tours And Travel Agencies (ASITA).

Following the G20 conference in Bali in November, local tour guide Ken Katut told CNN Travel that he thought the tourist sector was “progressing in the right direction.”

According to Ken, hotels were crowded with delegates, and he was “thrilled” to be keeping busy transporting guests around the island.

“The G20 was great for us who had been out of work during the pandemic,” he said. “It really brought Bali back to life.”

Now, some worry the momentum will be cut just as it was starting to pick up again.

What you should know

Anyone found guilty of adultery or premarital relations under the new penal code can spend a year in prison. The exact method of enforcing these rules is not yet known.

“Do tourist couples (visiting Bali) have to prove that they are married? Should we be asking them if they are married or not?” wonders Putu.

“Now foreign tourists will think twice about traveling to Bali because they might be jailed for violating the laws.”

Gay people and women will be disproportionately affected by the regulations, according to human rights groups, which also noted that they might ” provide an avenue for selective enforcement”

The law has also been criticized by hotel owners, who claim it will be difficult to police.

“Asking couples whether they are married or not is a very private area and it will be an impossible task to do,” said Ida Bagus Purwa Sidemen, Executive Director of the Indonesian Hotel & Restaurant Association (PHRI).

In response to criticism from the public, Sidemen believes that the Indonesian government will reexamine the legislation. “We just can’t be asking every couple about their legal marital statuses. It will create huge problems for us,” he said.

“But what is going to happen to us now if the new laws scare tourists off? Will we go back to how we were during the pandemic?

“The government can’t be wanting tourist (revenue) and at the same time enforcing these laws that will scare people away. It just doesn’t make sense.”