Political leaders on the Hindu-majority Indonesian island of Bali said on Friday they would refuse to enforce a tough new anti-porn law criticized as a threat to national unity.
The law, passed this week and backed by Islamic parties in the capital Jakarta, criminalizes all works and “bodily movements” deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality, and offers heavy penalties.
It has prompted protests across Indonesia, with critics saying it could threaten art and traditional culture from temple statues on Bali to penis sheaths on tribesmen in Christian and animist Papua Province.
Speaking to reporters, Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika said the island’s government would refuse to enforce the law, which has been the target of protest rallies by thousands of Balinese.
“We can’t carry out this law because it’s not in line with the philosophical and social values of the Balinese people,” Pastika said.
“I urge all the people of Bali to keep calm, stay alert and not be easily provoked and maintain a conducive atmosphere to ensure the unity of the Republic of Indonesia,” he said.
Activists on the island reacted to the law’s passage Thursday with a pledge to challenge it in the Constitutional Court and to carry out a campaign of civil disobedience if the challenge fails.
Asked if Bali’s political leaders would support the legal challenge, provincial assembly head Ida Bagus Putu Wesnawa told reporters: “We’ll wait for further developments.”
Critics of the law say its definition of pornography remains too broad despite an exhaustive revision process.
However, parties backing the bill say it has been amended enough to protect art and culture and would not drive bikini-wearing tourists away from holiday spots such as Bali, as many previously had feared.
The law contains provisions for between six months and 12 years in jail for producers and distributors of pornography and up to four years in prison for downloading pornography.
Muslims make up roughly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million population, which also contains sizeable Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian minorities.
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