Bali’s Culture Protected from Porn Law

JAKARTA
The Bali Times, AFP

The Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that traditional costumes and dances such as Bali’s cannot be criminalised under a controversial pornography law.

In a small victory for minority and civil society groups who had brought the case to court, the judges said that while they upheld the law it did not apply to cultural traditions, literature, sport and science.

“Traditional dances and costumes cannot be categorised as porn products as they are part of Indonesian cultures,” judge Hamdan Zulfa told the court.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, who included Christian and women’s rights groups, said he was disappointed the court had upheld the law but welcomed the exemptions.

“In a way this is a positive ruling, but I’m not sure it will work in its implementation. There will be multiple interpretations of what is classified as cultural products,” Taufik Basari said.

No mention of individual dances or costumes – such as the sexy “jaipong” dance of West Java or the koteka penis gourd worn by Papuan men – is made in the articles of the law, which was passed by parliament in October 2008.

But its definition of pornography is so broad that many Indonesians fear it will be used by hardline groups to impose conservative Islamic values across the culturally diverse archipelago.

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

Backed by Islamic parties, it defines pornography to include “bodily movements” deemed obscene and any act or product capable of violating public morality.

Four female dancers, a promoter and a bar manager were jailed for six weeks each earlier this month for performing an erotic dance in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

The law prompted protests across Indonesia, with critics saying it could threaten art and culture from temple statues on the Hindu-majority island of Bali to penis sheaths on tribesmen in Christian and animist Papua.

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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