Indonesian parliament passes anti-porn bill

Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:18am EDT
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By Olivia Rondonuwu and Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's parliament on Thursday passed an anti-pornography bill, despite strong opposition from minority groups who consider it a threat to artistic, religious, and cultural freedom.

The anti-porn bill was pushed by a small group of Islamist parties in predominantly Muslim, but officially secular, Indonesia, and its passage was greeted by claps and shouts of "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great" from supporters in parliament.

Indonesia will hold parliamentary and presidential elections next year, and few politicians are willing to risk upsetting the smaller Islamist parties as these could play an important role in forming coalitions.

However, some Indonesians, particularly the Hindu and Christian minorities, see the anti-porn bill as a sign of creeping intolerance when it comes to religious and cultural differences, with the agenda increasingly influenced by hardline Muslim groups.

Balkan Kaplale, head of the parliamentary committee which drafted the bill, said the legislation was necessary given the increasing immorality of Indonesian society, as shown by the rise in adultery cases and use of obscene language.

"If Christians put a suit on dead bodies and Muslims put on a white shroud, why can't the living do that?" said Kaplale, a member of parliament for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democrat Party, in a recent interview with Reuters.

"If a husband and wife are in one room, nobody is prohibiting it, because it's pleasure, but legal. What is being protested is if they are not husband and wife...that must not happen."

Two members of parliament were fired by their parties in the last year or so, following scandals in which they were caught in adulterous relationships on mobile phone cameras.   Continued...

<p>Muslim women rally to support legislators in passing a highly controversial pornography bill, outside the parliament building in Jakarta October 30, 2008. Indonesia's parliament passed an anti-pornography bill on Thursday to shield the young in the world's most populous Muslim country from pornographic material and lewd acts, overriding opposition from minority groups. REUTERS/Supri</p>