Crackdown under Indonesia’s ‘Anti-pornography bill’ – could minorities be next?

Four Indonesian women who were arrested at a club on New Year’s Eve could face up to 10 years in prison. Their crime: exotic dancing. The women are some of the first Indonesians to be prosecuted under the country’s ‘anti-pornography’ law that was passed in 2008.

A woman in Denpasar, Bali shouts at a 2008 rally against the anti-pornography bill. Firdia Lisnawati / AP

At the time, the law faced criticism from women rights activists and religious and cultural minorities who expressed concern that it could be used to target those who were seen not to fit in with the “norms of society” – and overly broad definition that they feared could be used to suppress dissent in Indonesia’s diverse society.

Now those fears appear to be moving toward reality.

A police spokesman told the Jakarta Post this week that authorites plan to prosecute the dancers who “were wearing sexy clothing” when police raided the Ballair Cafe and Music Lounge in Bandung, a city outside of Jakarta.

From Voice of America:

Ellin Rozana, the director of the Indonesian women’s rights group Institut Perempuan, says the anti-pornography law is part of a project by some Islamic parties to push Indonesia toward adopting aspects of sharia, or Islamic law.

“The spirit of the law is to fight against Indonesian pluralism,” she said.

For background on Indonesia’s Anti-Pornography law: “Pornography Bill Stirs Controversy in Indonesia,” World Politics Review, 2008.


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