The new Criminal Code has been widely condemned, in Indonesia and abroad. Image by Asep Fathulrahman for Antara.

On 6 December, Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR) passed a long-awaited new Criminal Code (KUHP), in an act the government described as one of decolonisation and modernisation of the Indonesian nation-state. Revised and re-drafted over several years, the new code replaces the 1918 version inherited from the Dutch and incorporated into the law of a newly independent Indonesia in 1946.

Civil society organisations, journalists and human rights activists immediately condemned many of the articles in the new code, particularly those that restrict freedom of speech, the right to protest and express views deemed counter to the national ideology, Pancasila. Women and other minorities are seen to be particularly vulnerable, with new laws criminalising access to abortion, sexual relations and cohabitation outside marriage. Senior researcher at Human Rights Watch Andreas Harsono expressed the disappointment and concern of many Indonesians when he said: “In one fell swoop, Indonesia’s human rights situation has taken a drastic turn for the worse, with potentially millions of people in Indonesia subject to criminal prosecution under this deeply flawed law.”

How did it come to this? Why did Indonesia need a new Criminal Code? Who were the key stakeholders responsible for writing it? What was the process and the impetus behind the creation of new laws (and a return to some old ones), which now curb Indonesians’ hard-won freedoms? Is there still time to change the code, or is there no turning back?

In this week’s episode of Talking Indonesia, the final episode for 2022, Dr Jemma Purdey chats to Bivitri Susanti, deputy chair and lecturer at Indonesia Jentera School of Law.

In 2022, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Dr Dave McRae from Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society (CILIS), Dr Jacqui Baker from Murdoch University, and Tito Ambyo from RMIT.

Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight once Talking Indonesia returns in January 2023. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or listen via your favourite podcasting app.

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