Fury, Incredulity in Bali over Porn Bill

DENPASAR ~ Balinese reacted with anger and disbelief this week that a national anti-pornography bill being debated in Jakarta was insensitive to local traditions here and could wreck the famed isle’s centuries-old ways of life.From its mountain temples festooned in ancient phallic symbols to its pristine beaches where Westerners bask in skimpy swimmers, Bali is an island famous for its easygoing lifestyle and sensual charms.
But a new bill designed to define pornography and set a moral tone across the vast, mainly Muslim archipelago is threatening to change all that, according to critics here.

Balinese lawmakers, rights activists, artists and tourism entrepreneurs are planning to join forces in a campaign of civil disobedience against what they say is ill-conceived and politically motivated meddling from Jakarta.

They say the bill overlaps with earlier legislation, defines pornography too broadly and will encourage Muslim extremists to enforce their values on Hindu Bali.

“Balinese and other ethnic groups have a different view on what sexual or pornographic materials are,” local intellectual Wayan Sayoga said at a protest rally of 5,000 people here on Wednesday.

“We can view nudity without being trapped by lust because we look at it from an aesthetical perspective.”

The bill, which could be passed in a matter of weeks, criminalizes all public acts and material capable of raising sexual desires or violating “community morality,” including poetry and music.

Protesters wore traditional clothes, see-through temple blouses, performed traditional dances and read a poem that repeated the word “genital.”

“The government should never forget that Indonesia is a country based on non-discrimination over race, religion and ethnicity,” activist Luh Anggraeni said.

“This porn bill is a serious threat to the country’s unity since it disrespects the perspective of others on many things.”

Luh Anggraeni of the Bali People’s Component, an umbrella group of artists and intellectuals opposed to the draft law, said it would criminalise innocent people who did not follow strict Islamic notions of decency.

“So we will see more women and men arrested in future because they wear clothes or stage art performances that according to the hardliners are violating the pornography law,” she said.

The same bill drew large protests in Bali and other islands two years ago, but Jakarta-based lawmakers backed by Muslim parties have pushed ahead with the plan and parliament is expected to pass it into law in October.

Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika has said the bill fails to consider cultural diversity in a nation that stretches from the conservative Islamic province of Aceh to the animist highlands of Papua, where women go topless and men wear almost nothing but long gourds on their penises.

“Many people in Papua still live naked or half-naked. Are we going to arrest them all?” he said.
The bill has been opposed by the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri but has won the support of Golkar, the country’s largest party.

Its main backer is the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a new force in Indonesian politics which has caught the eye of mainstream parties as a potential coalition partner after general elections next April.
One PKS leader has reportedly described the expected passing of the bill into law as a “gift” to the country for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Critics say Balinese customs threatened by the bill include the ubiquitous Hindu religious statues of Lingga and Yoni that depict male and female genitals, and the Kecak dance which is performed semi-naked.
PDI-P lawmaker Made Arjaya said the bill could also hurt the lucrative tourism industry, which is still recovering from the terrorist bombings on Bali in 2002 and 2005.

“I can’t imagine the impact on all the hotels and the tourists we have here if the government insists on issuing the porn law. Everyone will probably be afraid to come to Bali,” he said.

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