19 October 2008

Bali and Bikinis

The Anti-Pornography Bill is still likely to pass this year. Although, it also seems likely that amendments will be made to ensure that cultural and ritualistic practices are even more explicitly protected than they are now. The provisions will also be amended to ensure that tourism in Indonesia's premier tourism centers such as Bali are not affected.

In essence, this means that Bali and other places that depend on tourism will allow the wearing of bikinis on beaches without there being a breach of the strict provisions on the showing off of one's flesh. Nevertheless, this might not be universal in that every beach in Bali is exempt though. I am certain there will be a push to see this limited to specific beaches and in specific locations.

Aside from the idea of criminalizing the wearing of bikinis being a stupid idea in light of Indonesia's desire to attract tourists and some USD 9.8 billion in tourist revenue in this self-proclaimed "Visit Indonesia 2008" year, it was interesting and promising to see Indonesians rally and organize into a force to oppose such a silly measure.

Perhaps now the government and the parliament can now turn their collective attentions to more pressing and serious matters. The photo is of Indonesian model, Davina Veronica, well at least that is what the link to this photo said.


schmerly said...

This is a comment I posted in The Jakarta Post:

Once again the law makers are making total mess of this porn bill, how is it going to be implemented and who is going to enforce it, the corrupt police and 'Razia' raid or other hard-line bigots who take it upon their self’s to interpret this law into what they think is pornographic? This bill will be an open house to extort money in the name of religion. So you can wear a bikini here but you can’t wear it there, you can wear this but you can’t wear that! What kind of (democracy) do we have here and do the men have a dress code? It seems most of this bill is about the control of women just like in places such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan Etc. I feel sorry for the women of Indonesia who are already treated like second class citizens, as they will have to bear the brunt of this bill. And what about the people of Papua and other cultures in Indonesia who show a bit of flesh in their traditional dress, who is going to protect their rights and what dispensation will they get if any. This bill is a total farce! way to go Indonesia backwards not forwards.

toshi said...

great post (and pic) to lighten up our day!


Rob Baiton said...


There are arguments to be made for a restriction of access to porn. The question though is the argument legislation in a specific law. I think that the matter is better dealt with through amending (perhaps modernizing) the provisions in the criminal code.

I am also of the belief that the cyber crime provisions would be better located in the criminal code as well.

Is the porn bill about controlling women, in part it is but it is also about much more than that. I have posted on this elsewhere in my blog.


Glad to have been of assistance (in lightening up your day).

schmerly said...


I totally agree porn laws should come under the criminal codes.

I’ve been in Indonesia for sixteen years, and since the fall of Suharto I see it slowly sliding into a more hard line Islamic state, as with this particular bill it is religiously motivated by the old hard line bigots along with the so called, defenders of Islam and sharia law devotees, it’s a worrying thought that Indonesia is going down this path.

Rob Baiton said...


Yes, the application of Sharia law is going to be problematic, particularly in the criminal jurisdiction.

lawbugger said...

You guys are kidding yourselves. This law will mean little. If you are worried about the slide to the fundamentalists and the resultant loss of human rights as a result, then please give me examples.

corruption and its ilk is a far bigger problem. ...... you guys are obviously living in another area of town..

Rob Baiton said...


I think I said that Sharia law would be problematic and particularly in terms of its application in criminal law.

Now, if that is having myself on then perhaps you should give some examples.

The law might mean little to you, but it seems that it means a lot to others.

I would suggest that those that are lobby against the law, and it seems that they have had some success in getting the criminal provisions off the table as it relates to bikinis in toursit areas, is an example.

Who said anything about corruptin and its ilk not being a serious problem? Is there a competition on who can cite the most serious problem facing Indonesia?

It is possible that the issue of pornography has corruption issues in its enforcement. I guess though, that is for those thinking laterally and perhaps outside of the box.

Pornography is an important issue and so is corruption. They do not have to be mutually exclusive, simply one does not have to be prioritized over the other.

The DPR can handle both.

In another area of town? That depends, where do you live?

If Schmerly wants to respond on his hardline bigots comment, then that is up to him.

Perhaps the kidding is a little bit more universal than you give it credit for?

invisible said...

If the economy plunges into a recession, the public will be up in arms. among the chaos, hard line fundamentalists will have a greater voice, probably blaming the west for the current situation.
During Suharto's era, Suharto himself was the scapegoat, and now it will be western influence.

The implementation of sharia law will be seen by some as a means to an end. Since people are suffering, and anger brewing, there will be a tendency to try something different, as they have seen democracy fail miserably.

All this has happened before and will happen again, it's human nature. Unfortunately, since people rarely change, it takes great trauma and suffering to facilitate change, and sometimes for the worse.

Rob Baiton said...


Interesting take on where things might be headed.

lawbugger said...

how many (new) laws here are not even remotely enforced, and are now forgotten? Would you care to list a few for me, having your finger on this pulse??

how many pirated dvd's have we all bought??

I dont see this "slowly sliding into a more hard line Islamic state" thing around where I live.

I might say that before the last set of elections there was some honest preference for an honest "Islamic party" - the people are far too cynical now to be attracted by sharia etc

Rob Baiton said...


You want me to list the laws with lax enforcement?

That would be just about all of them. However, if your point is that the anti-porn bill is irrelevant because when it passes enforcement will be lax or perhaps non-existent actually is the point in many ways.

You talk about corruption and its ilk. This is interesting because lax law enforcement feeds corruption, plain and simple. It is like traffic coppers taking a 50 instead of writing a ticket.

It is the immigration official that charges you a 20 or more for your fingerprints or a 50 just to get a form.

Once parliamentarians are elected it is they who pass the laws. There are plenty of Sharia inspired laws on the books already.

I did not say that Indonesia was sliding into a more fundamentalist Sharia state. I have said that Sharia law will be problematic and I stand by that statement.

If Indonesia's success or failure is measured in pirated DVDs or software, then I think we should all be concerned about the prognosis.

schmerly said...


I don’t know which part of town you live in but I think you should get out more often
especially at night, I’ve seen the so called religious police (Razia) arresting women on the street at night for doing nothing more than being on the street unaccompanied by a male!! they get arrested under the guise of (Sharia Law) They are then put in prison for two days and given (Religious Guidance) however there is an upside to this if you pay the Razia two million Rup’s they let you go!! Good ‘aint it and I know this first hand as it happened to a relative of my Indonesian wife.

Talking about human rights, I wonder where these women’s (human rights) went? And this practice is getting more prevalent, so don’t forget to lock up your women after dusk! Unless you can afford the two million Rup’s.

Rob Baiton said...


Funnily enough, I kinda knew you would be back to answer for yourself on this one.

I am not sure, to be honest, that it matters what part of town you live in.

What is worth looking at is how people perceive priorities and what is important in different ways.

I think the anti-porn law is important and has significant ramifications, others do not.

Who's right and who's wrong?

Anonymous said...

I have never seen these Razia police south of Aceh.

I guess I need to look around more - what colour is their uniform??

Anonymous said...

its a democracy isnt it?? kick them out if you dont like the laws??

Rob Baiton said...


As I say to all my anonymous commentators, please adopt something that distinguishes you from others.

Uniforms. Police uniforms, sometimes their are civilan clothed coppers in their midst, sometimes it is the blue uniformed PP. It depends on who is conducting it.

In any event, you seem to think that becasue you cannot see it or more to the point because you have not seen it, then it does not exist.

You would probably be the prefect person to have the god argument with unless of course you have seen god face-to-face.

Simply, the logic is, if you haven't seen it then it does not exist.

lawbugger said...

Sorry but I have never seen (or heard) of PP. Are they the same guys in the little open topped trucks that clear away the hawkers along sudirman, who always come back in a day or two anyway??

If the PP have the power to enforce then isnt it fair to enforce according to law? as anon said before, if you don't like the law then move to change it, or argue against its adoption. If it passes then that democracy isnt it?? Im sure RAB you would agree with that??

Rob Baiton said...


We must have been writing and posting at the same time.

To answer your second post.

It is a democracy and perhaps the discussion of the issues is one way of organizing against this. I personally cannot vote as I am not an Indonesian citizen as yet.

I do have an Indonesia family and therefore have an interest in how things work out.

I think people are exercising their democratic rights to organize and lobby for change to the provisions. This I would have thought was proven by the current changes to the proposed provisions to exclude toursit areas from the bikini provisions (the point of this post).


Yep, the PP are those fellas.

As to agreeing with you, you know that I do. If you want a change to the laws currently in place or you want to see proposed laws reviewed and amended before they get to a parliamentary vote, then you need to organize and lobby and protest to see those changes that you want to see.

A democracy will also mean that you win some of these struggles and you lose some. That is the nature of a democracy. So, if it passes, then so be it.

But to suggest that this is the sum total of my arguments against the provisions is an over-simplification of the post and the arguments I have been making.

I have not said anything here to the contrary. I have been suggesting that the provisions of the proposed law a re problematic. I have been suggesting that people are organizing against some of the provisions.

The point of this post was that those movements seem to have had some success in getting the bikin provisions out of the bill.

Some here have been commenting that is does not matter whether the bill passes or not and that is does not matter what the provisions are because it won't be properly enforced.

I disagree with that notion as I am sure you are aware. It does matter. Some have argued corruption is more important, perhaps it is.

However, adding new statutes to the books that are poorly enforced is also akin to adding more opportunities for corruption to breed.

These were my points. If you think about them, perhaps you would find that you agree with some of them. I rarely, if ever, adopt extreme positions unless I am playing the Devil's Advocate role.

lawbugger said...

All you points are well taken. I wonder how you can be so moderate when I am sure you must be livid about some of the things you see and hear about here.

Dont you feel that to get things done you really need to take an extreme position sometimes - especially in such an acquiescent country such as this??

Rob Baiton said...



Not sure about livid.

But, I am sure that I have had many, many WTF moments. Yet, to be honest, I have had WTF moments in all the places I have lived like Australia, the US, the UK, and here.

Do you think you need to adopt an extreme position. As always the lawyer, depends on the definition of extreme. I am not sure that I have it in me to be as extreme as some.

I am passionate about my "causes" and will argue for them. I think those that have most the success are not those that are the most extreme but rather those who can exploit the extreme position of others for a more moderate alternative that provides the change.

Politics, democracy, whatever one wants to call it. Ultimately, it is about finding compromise that works.

With regard to the anti-pornography bill. I am for clearer and more enforceable provisions. I think though that these can be incorporated into the criminal code.

I am against the idea that there needs to be a criminalizing of wearing a bikini on a beach.

The idea that wearing a bikini is criminal for me is the dressing up an Islamic prinicple of modesty in a "this is an Indonesian morality issue and not a sharia one".

Schmerly, is a little more forthright than me in his claims about the increasing fundamentalism. I, on the other hand, prefer to point out that the move is incremental and with each new law there is a little bit more whittled away.

I am measured in my responses for a number of reasons. Most obviously because I am a guest and Indonesia is my host and my residency is always at the discretion of my hosts. This is not a cop out, it just means that I have to operate in different ways. Those ways are not for open discussion in this forum ;)

Ultimately, though the changes that Indonesians want to see must be driven by Indonesians themselves. My job is to provide any support that I can, whether that be to publicize the issues here to a limited readership, simply whatever is asked.

I just took a shellacking recently for expressing my opinions about Indonesia and was told to pull my head in because as a foreigner. The gist bieng; no matter how long I have been here, no matter who I am married to, and no matter how many Indonesian children I have, I am a foreigner and I can never understand what it is to be Indonesian or what Indonesia is about.

As Uncle Ned said, "such is life!"

I take that kind of criticism with a grain of salt and go about my business.

Once again, thanks for coming back and commenting.

lawbugger said...

NO, the thanks is yours. You wrote a lot there and I dont have time right now to reply, and seeing as I started some of this, I should. BUt on reflection I did mean livid. Obviously you dont get that way. WTF seems the way of the world nowadays. Not in my day, sadly perhaps.

I mean, when you see patently BAD PRACTICE in your workplace (for example) from expats or Indonesians are you not angered? To see an inexorable downward spiral forming, which you know can be arrested; and all you do is gulp WTF. When you know that injustice reigns in your little world, your workspace?? Here is the quintissential "if its not broken dont touch it" land

No, I cant contain my thoughts to this comment box forum - I better sign off whilst I can.

As for your shellacking surely you are heartened by the fact that Indonesians on mass probably know little about each other anyway - except those living in the microcosms of cities and country. I see so may uprooted and fearful folk here- scared and ignorant of what is going on around them with no/insufficient analytical tools. The media is tame and full of pap So how can one blame these folk.

in god they trust.....

Rob Baiton said...


The gulping WTF moments in my work place I deal with. In that sense my little world gets plenty of attention.

WTF needs not be interpreted as a shake of the head and walk away. Do some things make me angry? Without a doubt! However, I try and deal with creating sustainable change in the practices of the workplace, particularly with stuff that I have always taken for granted in places like Australia.

I have no dramas if you vent your spleen here. No need to sign off (unless you want to).

On the "if it aint broke why fix it", the problem is that sometimes people cannot see that it is in fact already broken and broken badly.

I am the eternal optimist when it comes to Indonesia, always have been. It is just that sometimes we have to be more selective in the way we pick our battles.

For me it is always about building critical mass so that the movement for change cannot be thwarted or stopped by entrenched interests.

That's just me.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Rob, I have a strong feeling that the porn bill, and while we are at it, sharia law, will never pass in this country. What and who has the rights to define 'porn' instead of art? And which sharia should be applied?

There are more important things that the government should put attention, like education or health. Yet they muddle on this stupid things. It's all politics.

Rob Baiton said...


I think that Sharia is already an issue at least at the Regional level as regional governments (provincial, district, and city) pass Sharia inspired regulations.

This is my point about incremental whittling away. I am optimistic in a similar way that I want to believe that it, Sharia law, will never gain a foothold.

On the porn bill. I am thinking that it might pass in some form. Whether it is as an independent bill, I am not sure. That is why I keep bringing up the idea that the required porn provisions would be better suited in the Criminal Code ;)

Nah, that said, I would not be surprised if this turns out like amending the Criminal Code. It just becomes this convenient cycle of 3 or 4 months of intense debate, disappear, return, disappear, return.

Are there more important things to be dealing with? Perhaps. Education and health are certainly important, as is corruption, as is judicial reform, as is the need for better governance overall.

The list is probably long but not necessarily endless. So, there is hope.

The practice of leaving things part resolved or complete is pretty frustrating for me, I do not know about others.