06 March 2009

The Pornography Law -- Judicial Review

This has appeared previously on the en.hukumonline.com website - here.

The debate on the pornography law seems to be a never ending one and is set to continue in the Constitutional Court on 23 February 2009. On 9 February 2009, in a move without any fanfare or announcement, eleven individuals filed a petition in the Constitutional Court seeking a judicial review of the Pornography Law. The petition seeks to have Articles 1(1), 4, and 10 repealed as constitutionally invalid.

The petitioners, among others, include Billy Lombok (Minahasa Christian Gospel Church), Jeffrey Delarue (Indonesian National Youth Committee of North Sulawesi), Janny Kopalit (Manado Catholic Youth), Goinpeace Tumbel (North Sulawesi Indonesian Christian Youth Movement), Bert Supit (Minahasa Cultural Council), and Charles Lepar (Manado Inter-Church Youth Forum). To represent them in the judicial review process, they have engaged O.C. Kaligis as their lawyer.

The substance of the petition is not surprising and is representative of much of the debate on the validity of the pornography law to date. The first claim as it relates to Article 1(1) is that the definition of pornography is too broad and as such is all-encompassing. The petitioners are arguing that such a broad definition will catch legitimate art and other traditional cultural practices under the definition.

The crux of the argument is that with such broad cultural diversity in Indonesia from Sabang to Merauke that it is unfair to have such a broad definition. Simply, what is acceptable in Papua might not be acceptable in Aceh. But, that lack of acceptance must not see the conduct criminalized as pornography or indecency.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether the Constitutional Court reads the pornography law as a whole or only the individual articles. The reason for this is that the government continues to maintain that the law specifically protects certain art and cultural traditions under other articles within the law. The petitioners despite representing an eclectic mix of church and youth organizations, they are also artists who feel that they have a legitimate grievance here in light of some of the art that they produce, such as carvings and paintings, would seemingly fall foul of the definition.

An angle adopted by the petitioners, and worthy of note, is that as working artists who earn a living and support families from their artistic income the pornography law discriminates against them and in essence violates their right to work. This is the substantive argument against Article 4.

The problem, as the petitioners see it, with Article 10 is that the article is open to multiple interpretations. The petitioners seem to focus on the term “depict nudity” and the definition may vary from one region to another in terms of what is considered to depict nudity. The argument seems to rely, similarly to Article 1, on the fact that Indonesia is a country with a rich history of pluralism and cultural diversity.

However, in a generic sense the term, depict nudity, is not problematic. Simply, what is depicting nudity in Aceh will still be depicting nudity in Papua. The difference is whether or not the current law would provide an exception for the depiction.

On the sides to this petition there are still many within the community that take issue with the pornography law. One issue that continues to arise is related to enforcement and how law enforcement agencies, irrespective of whether they are the police or the Office of the Public Prosecutor, intend to enforce the provisions that many consider to be problematic.

At various times both the National Commission for Women and the National Commission for Human Rights have invited law enforcers to discuss in detail the proposed implementation and subsequent enforcement of the provisions of the law. These organizations generally focus on the broadness of the definitions and the all-encompassing nature of these definitions as the basis of their rejection of the provisions of the law. In this case Article 4 was also noted as being most problematic.

However, the police see the law as a valuable tool in combating crimes related to pornography. Nicolas A. Lilipaly, Head of the Pornography, Indecency, and Morality Unit at the Metro Jaya Police Headquarters, is unequivocal in stating that the Pornography Law has enhanced the police’s ability to deal with pornography, which had to date been dealt with under provisions of the Indonesian Criminal Code.

In another interesting aside and also related to the pornography law, the Chief Judge of the Central Jakarta District Court, Andriani Nurdin, stated that where laws exhibit weaknesses then the duty falls to the court to exercise their discretion and interpret the provisions as they appear or to create the law where the legislation remains silent. There is likely to be some serious questioning of this kind of judicial activism of the bench from the community, particularly if the courts were to use their discretion in ways that clearly exceeded the intent of the parliament when drafting the law.

This latest installment in the debate on pornography is certain to keep the issue alive within the community.

(RAB / SH)


pj said...

Hi Rob

Interesting discussion over on IM.

Just a question? Has anyone been successfully prosecuted under the new bill (to your knowledge)? I haven't seen anything in the news but maybe I've missed something.


Rob Baiton said...


Always at least one interesting discussion over at IM.

Not that I know of. There are still implementing regulations to be issued in order to provide a little clarity to some of the procedures and mechanisms.

putrakawanua said...

_lombokthank u for publish this article..
- ur sincere Billy Lombok

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Interesting topic and worthy of more comments, I think.