Indonesia (MNN) — Indonesia has approved sweeping changes to the penal code. The United Nations says the new code could threaten basic freedoms.

Tens of thousands have protested across Indonesia against the new code. But lawmakers pushed it through unanimously, at the bidding of President Joko Widodo.

Bruce Allen with FMI says, “The revised code includes provisions against insulting the president and state institutions. They do make the differentiation between insulting and simply criticizing or lodging protests. So that softens that language a little bit.”

“But still, civil rights groups are airing concerns about possible misinterpretations of those provisions.”

Notably, sex outside of marriage could be punishable by six months to a year in prison if family members complain. Human rights experts worry this law could be used to persecute members of the LGBT community in particular.

Local customs

Many parts of the new code are difficult to interpret, leaving room for abuse.

Most worrying, Allen says the code upholds unwritten local rules and customs. “For example, there is no national law regarding a woman’s need to wear a hijab, the Muslim head covering, in Indonesia. But in many places, it is an unwritten custom for women to wear one. Thus, the new penal code says a woman could be legally prosecuted for not wearing one.”

Indonesian Christians will need to live carefully and in harmony with their neighbors. Ask God to give them wisdom and strength.

You can support church-planting projects through FMI. Learn more at Allen says, “I’d be glad to provide people with a profile of a specific church planter, information about his culture and the community where he serves, and regular ministry updates.”


The header photo shows Indonesian President Joko Widodo. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of State Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia [Kementerian Sekretariat Negara Republik Indonesia], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)