President Criticized for Signing Anti-Porn Law

JAKARTA ~ President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was strongly criticized this week after signing a tough anti-pornography law that opponents have said threatens national unity.

The law, backed by Islamic parties in Jakarta, criminalizes all works and “bodily movements” deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality, and provides heavy penalties.

It prompted protests across Indonesia, with critics saying it could threaten art and traditional culture from temple statues in Bali to penis sheaths on tribesmen in Christian and animist Papua province.

The president’s signing of the law late last month was made public on Tuesday.

“Yudhoyono could have chosen not to sign it because there are still several provinces that strongly oppose the law,” lawmaker Eva Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said.

“The opposing provinces, such as Papua, Bali, Yogyakarta, North Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara, say that the law threatened their culture and national unity.”

I Gusti Ngurah Harta, head of the Bali People’s Component, an organization of local intellectuals and artists, said: “We are disappointed that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has signed the law. We will not vote for him in the elections next year.”

“We don’t need a porn law. Instead, we need reinforcement of existing laws to protect children against porn acts, remove vulgar writings in the media or porn in film,” Harta added.

Bantarto Bandoro, political analyst from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: “Yudhoyono’s decision could shake the foundation of his presidential campaign for next year’s election.”

But the president’s special staff for legal affairs Denny Indrayana said: “The president told me that he had carefully read the latest version of the law. He commented that it was appropriate.”

The law contains provisions for between six months and 12 years’ jail for producers and distributors of pornography and up to four years in prison for downloading pornography.

Muslims make up roughly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million population, which also contains sizeable Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian minorities.

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