Bali, Pornography & Public Morality

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about the proposed new pornography laws in Indonesia and, yes, I find a great deal of it disquieting.

At the office, this topic has featured in five or six different lunchtime conversations and everyone does have an opinion.

Last week, we went as far as to get ourselves a copy of the bill and I had it translated. Interesting reading to say the least.

But why the broohaha? It’s a law. Indonesia doesn’t enforce them anyway. Pornography’s against the law (meaning the hardcore stuff) but you can get it pretty much anywhere.

Dildoes & vibrators are against the law but if I remember one recent news article correctly, you can buy them and inflatable sex dolls online at a Jakarta website.

Prostitution and drugs are against the law but if you go out to a nightclub and don’t get offered sex for money and a bunch of drugs, it’s a weird night.

So why worry about yet another new law that won’t be enforced?

I guess to one extent, the threat to Bali would be tourism… not that g-string wearing exotic dancers have anything to do with it — the new law proposes a dress code that excludes stuff like bikinis (belly buttons, etc.) from places not designated for sports.

I guess in Bali that would require all the beaches be sports grounds and everyone be forced to carry a surfboard (or at least a tennis ball) into the waves… hmmmn. I wonder what the cops and coast guards will wear? Baywatch it won’t be.

One comment at lunch was that the law was unfair.

But, at the risk of sounding pompous and pretentious (moi?), when was “The Law” ever fair? Representational, possibly. Shaped by public opinion possibly but that doesn’t mean fair.

In fact, on those two points alone, you already know that the law would have a built-in tendency to marginalise. What’s fair for the majority, will most likely be bloody inconvenient for certain minorities. And as for those who argue that the law by definition is impartial… pah!

So, we’re in a Moslem country and the new laws represent that culture. Sounds alright to me.

Anyway, you could easily argue that tourism and Islam are a conflict right from the get-go. I won’t argue that… but just about anyone else could.

Certainly, if you are the type of person who believes in Heaven (of whichever stripe) and you’re hellbent (heheh) on getting there, swanning around half-naked on the beach in Bali seems incompatible with that aim.

All of that said (and I know, I know: I’ve already said too much), I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I believe the law is anything like a good idea but my reasons might be a little different.

Firstly, I think Indonesia, so far, has done a grand job transitioning from dictatorship to democracy. Compared with other large dictatorships (China & USSR spring to mind), in my opinion, I’ve seen relatively little of the fragmentation, ethnic / religious strife and chaos or bloodshed. No, it hasn’t been perfect and hassle-free but what is?

Generally speaking however, from where I’m sitting, the transition has been friendly, peaceful and somewhat elegant. Surprisingly so.

That said, there’s still plenty of work for a new government to do so given what I see in terms of the economic, legal, medical and educational infrastructures… belly buttons and kissing in public seem very, very far down the list.

In other words, I would say the implementation of new laws to control public morality is a distraction from the main body (pun intended… natch) of work that the government would pursue in the best interests of the people.
Then, I also think at these time in Indonesian history, it’s maybe not the best time to focus on new laws, maybe the country might be better served shoring up, pruning and improving the existing legal infrastructure to more effectively enforce the laws we already have.

In other words, there’s plenty of work to be done at the courts and law enforcement centres ahead of making new laws. And that’s just as true about organisation and logistics as it is true about corruption and nepotism

Perhaps, most of all, I’m not a fan of any government at any time, taking steps to control the morals of the citizens… I just don’t see it as part of the government mandate. I also find it to be counter-productive. I prefer governments that walk softly with big sticks; that don’t talk, talk, talk; that take care of the people’s business effectively and efficiently.

Admittedly, it would be a government that I’ve yet to see. As wonderful an organisation as a news media outlet with a lead story of “No News Today… so gone fishing… please check back later.”

Well, that’s enough from me on this topic… I’ll sign off to contemplate my navel… in the privacy of my own home of course.

Sean

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