It’s Neverland for This Piece of Legislation

By Novar Caine

It was beldam outside the Bandung District Court this week moments after the region’s most popular singer was incarcerated for sex acts he apparently recorded for private viewing but which found their way to the internet. Hardline Muslims said the three and a half years’ jailing was a disgrace and called for the 29-year-old to be stoned to death. Girls wept.

The jailing of Nazril Ariel is a disgrace, but there was little leeway for the court under the draconian anti-pornography legislation enacted in 2008. That didn’t stop presiding judge Singgih Prakoso from declaring, however, that the young Peterpan frontman did nothing to prevent the videos’ distribution on the internet when it is believed they were on a laptop of his that was stolen.

Was injured-party Ariel to have traced down every server on Earth where his copulation with Indonesian starlets Cut Tari and Luna Maya, on separate occasions, appeared, and request they be removed? Impossible! Do the judges even know what the pervasive internet is?

The country is mired in a flux between the hardline desires of the ultra-right encapsulated in militant Muslim groups and minor political parties and the balanced, modern-day perspective of most of the rest of the country, people who have no wish to live according to archaic rules that predominately are obsessed with morality and sex.

There are wider inconsistencies in the Ariel case: A man who admitted to distributing the videos has been jailed for two years. Judge Prakoso felt he had to make an example out of the singer, because his legions of teenage fans might be led astray. It seems he imposed the prison term partly because Ariel refused to own up: “…he consistently denied that the man in the sex videos was him, even though digital forensics suggested otherwise,” the judge said.

Compare this to other recent high-profile verdicts out of Indonesian courts: Three soldiers found guilty of disobeying orders (they tortured Papuans in a YouTube-posted video that was pornographically violent) were given between eight and 10 months’ jail while mega-corruptor Gayus Tambunan got seven years and was fined Rp300 million (US$33,200). Ariel’s fine was Rp250 million.

What’s more important for the country: battling grave issues such as military abuse and corruption or tying up the courts in senseless morality cases? The people who crafted the destructive legislation that has put the victim of a theft in prison for the next three years should be listening to the actual people of the country, who elect them, not to the crazed minority of hardliners who are intent on seeing Indonesia regress several centuries at a time when the nation has newfound confidence on the regional and world stage.

What – or who – is next? The starlets may well end up in the same place as their stud. Police said this week they would intensify their probe into the pair.

From the outset Bali has turned its back on the anti-porn law, saying it could harm the island’s international standing and negatively affect ways of Balinese life that have existed for centuries. The legislation forbids Balinese women going about topless, as they have traditionally done, albeit now only some of advanced years. Topless-sunbathing female tourists could also find themselves hauled into court. Bali’s renowned arts scene, with its sensuous renderings of the female form, isn’t spared either. It is nonsense that Governor I Made Mangku Pastika said from the start would not apply to this part of the country.

The authorities in Jakarta have become so preoccupied with morals that they are running wild. BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, a Canadian company, was forced late last month to block sex sites on its handsets, a business device turned status symbol among the emerging middle class. Internet providers around the country had earlier been ordered to block out porn.

Up in Aceh, where the people have been ruled by Islamic law for the past nine years, they’re caning adulterers in public – and hope to one day stone them to death: the law was passed in 2009 but the province’s governor refuses to sign it – and pulling women in tight jeans and short skirts aside and making them wear dowdy attire, while corruption remains as rampant as ever.

If the anti-porn law is any indication, the rest of Indonesia is headed the same abortive way. In the 21st century, that is no way to run a country.

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Filed under: Arts & Entertainment

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