Bali takes a hit from bonking ban plan

 

Tourist cancellations have already started in Bali ahead of Indonesia's threat to ban unwed bonking, a move which tourism operators say will send them to the wall.

Indonesia is set to pass a new criminal code that controversially includes consensual sex between unmarried adults a crime and also makes unmarried couples living together illegal.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has called for the House of Representatives to hold off on passing the bill, citing public concerns over some problematic amendments.

But already in Bali, there are reports of couples in Lombok being asked by hotels to provide proof of marriage.

More than 1.2 million Aussies visit Bali annually and chairman of Bali Tourism Mr Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana conceded today it was "ridiculous" to ask tourists for a marriage license.

Australian Elizabeth Travers, the owner of The Glasshouse and Star Villa Bali, says the bonking ban plan would destroy Bali’s tourism industry. Picture: Lukman S. Bintoro
Australian Elizabeth Travers, the owner of The Glasshouse and Star Villa Bali, says the bonking ban plan would destroy Bali’s tourism industry. Picture: Lukman S. Bintoro

Australian entrepreneur Elizabeth Travers - owner of The Glasshouse restaurant in Sanur who has 30 villas in Bali under her management - woke up this morning to cancellations from Australians fearing their de facto relationship would be a crime.

"The law has not even changed yet and I have already received cancellations. One client said they no longer trust coming to Bali because they are not married," Ms Travers said.

Ms Travers has run successful businesses on the island for 15 years and believes that a bonking ban would be a disaster for tourism akin to erupting volcanoes and devastating earthquakes.

"I have traded through two bombings and multiple nature disasters and think that if the central government is serious about enforcing such laws, the tourism industry would be destroyed and trigger the end of life in Bali as we know it," she said.

Tourism operators are hoping locals turn a "blind eye" should the law be enforced.

According to Ms Travers, a recent ban on selling beer in convenience stores and on the beach lasted about a week.

"The government in Bali often does not enforce laws that will harm tourism."

The Chairman of Bali Tourism Mr Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana said the Governor of Bali understands the value of tourism on the Island of the Gods.

"I don't believe this will happen in Bali - but outside of Bali different governors could insist that tourists must report with a marriage license," he said.

"It is ridiculous to ask tourists for a marriage license."

Pioneering Australian businessman Nigel Mason, who has run businesses in Bali for nearly four decades, slammed the proposal as "frightening" but believes boycotting the island is not warranted.

"Australian's are ridiculous to boycott Bali and it could be disastrous for the island," he said.

Indonesians have launched a petition through Change.org calling on the president to reject the draft criminal code and it has gone viral with more than 500,000 signatures.

"These potential enforcements are not only disastrous for business but they are archaic and from the dark ages. It's really quite frightening that they are trying to turn back time and inflict sharia law," Mr Mason said.

"It makes Indonesia look foolish and bring ridicule down on the country."

In a statement to the press today, President Jokowi said he had continuously looked into and listened to the concerns of members of the public who have expressed their objections to some articles in the bill and that he agreed the proposed changes needed to be "thoroughly reviewed".

"I have ordered the Law and Human Rights Ministry to convey (my) stance to the House, that the passing of the Criminal Code bill into law should be postponed and that the bill should not be passed during the current sitting period," Jokowi said.

"I hope the House is on the same page about this matter so that the deliberation of the Criminal Code bill be continued (by lawmakers) in the next period."

Expat Australian Shar Shakespeare, 36, finds the proposed laws frightening because she lives with her partner with no plans to marry.

"I don't like doing anything against the law so if this came into effect my partner and I would leave Indonesia," she said.

"It would be terrible because I have been here for a very long time and made a life here. I'd have to leave my business and pull my children out of school and move back to Australia.

"I wouldn't feel safe with such restrictive laws. I'm putting money into Indonesia by having my management business here and not being married in my eye is not crime.

"If they want to apply such laws they should be only to Indonesian citizens and not foreigners."