Indonesia’s Criminal Code Bill: Between Legal Reform and Democratic Setback

Ms Rafiqa Qurrata Ayun1

1Melbourne Law School, Australia

Attempts to amend Indonesia’s Criminal Code have been made since the early 1960s and the bill has been intensively discussed by the government and the House of Representatives since 2015. In the political year of 2019, the bill commonly known as RKUHP has gained wider public attention because of the inclusion of a number of problematic offenses such as insulting the president, defaming religion, adultery and cohabitation. As the state justifies such a controversial bill by using nationalist narrative to point to the urgency of criminal law reform, it raises questions concerning in whose interest this bill is being formulated. While some studies focus on the problematic offenses that potentially threaten human rights, and on the conflicting aims of punishment in the bill, this paper elaborates the broader context of how the development of the bill mirrors a feature of Indonesian democracy, which is leaning toward illiberal tendency. It is argued here that the 2019 bill has revealed a move that embraces illiberalism as reflected in how the bill regulates some offenses that potentially violate civil liberties and at the same time accommodates some provisions that give more privilege to political and economic elites.


Rafiqa is lecturer at the Department of Criminal Law, Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia and a PhD student at Melbourne Law School. Her research interests are Indonesia’s criminal law, law and politics, blasphemy law and democracy.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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