By Emraan Ansari
Controversial bills proposed by the Indonesian Parliament have incensed citizens, who have taken to the streets en masse. The proposed legislation would weaken Indonesia’s anti-corruption laws, and reform the penal code to outlaw extramarital sex, ban abortion except in cases of rape and incest, strengthen rules against blasphemy and treason, and make it a crime to insult the President. With Indonesia’s parliamentary session coming to a close, lawmakers attempted to push through the controversial measures with President Joko Widodo’s support. Critics have argued that the proposed laws would erode individual liberties by limiting freedom of speech and harming LGBT rights. After mass protests led by students, the efforts to reform the penal code were delayed, but detractors are concerned that the bill will be pushed through when the new session of parliament begins. The delay has not appeased protestors, who are calling for the bills to be scrapped entirely. Tens of thousands of Indonesians have joined the protests and been met by aggressive police who have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds. Student leaders submitted a list of demands to the Indonesian authorities, which included withdrawing troops to decrease tensions in West Papua and investigating past instances of human rights abuses, in addition to revoking the bill reforming Indonesia’s penal code. Protestors are also concerned about the potential weakening of anti-corruption regulation, as the Indonesian public sees corruption as a significant problem and the current anti-corruption legislation is highly popular. President Joko was hailed as a leader to curb corruption and reform Indonesia’s government when he was first elected, but his image is at risk with the latest legislation.
The tensions between demonstrators and authorities have increased recently, as the protestors began a second round of demonstrations in the face of Joko Widodo beginning his second term in office. Hundreds of people returned to the streets of Jakarta to reiterate their demands to the Widodo Government. As a result, police used tear gas to disperse the demonstrations, which culminated in over 300 people being injured, including a 21-year-old who was shot by police and ultimately passed away from his wounds.