Asia Pacific

Indonesian student protests against sex ban law enter third day

Reuters

Indonesian students rallied for a third day on Wednesday against proposed new laws, including a criminal code that would ban extramarital sex and penalize insulting the president’s honor, a day after clashes in the capital injured more than 300 people.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to break up Tuesday’s rallies in Jakarta and other cities, some of the biggest since 1998 student protests fueled unrest that led to the fall of former strongman leader Suharto.

The rallies were smaller in Jakarta on Wednesday but there were fresh skirmishes in the area around the parliament, with tear gas once again fired to disperse crowds.

At least 200 high-school students had been arrested for not possessing a permit to protest, Jakarta’s police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

Students also held fresh protests in Surabaya in Java and stormed a parliament building in Padang in West Sumatra, according to media reports.

Jakarta police chief Gatot Eddy Pramono said 265 students and 39 police were injured on Tuesday and 94 people arrested. Some of those detained had carried petrol bombs, he told reporters.

The Jakarta-based University of Al Azhar said in a statement that one of its students was in a critical condition after taking part in protests on Tuesday. A hospital official said the student had sustained injuries to his head and collarbone.

President Joko Widodo on Friday delayed parliament’s vote on the new criminal code, which would replace a Dutch colonial-era set of laws, saying a new parliament should deliberate on the bill next month.

The revisions to the code include penalties for sex outside marriage, insulting the president’s dignity, a four-year jail term for abortions in the absence of a medical emergency or rape, and a prison term for black magic.

Pramono said police are investigating the role of non-student groups in the protests, but he did not give details.

“If it is proven that they caused damage … we will take strict measures against them and start the legal process,” Pramono said.

Aside from opposing the new criminal code, students say they oppose changes to a law governing the anti-graft agency, known by its initials KPK, and the appointment of new agency commissioners that critics say will weaken the fight against corruption.

On walls near the parliament building in Jakarta, protesters had scrawled: “Parliament is the state’s clown” and “RIP KPK.”

Students also want a ban on military or police personnel taking up public posts, and the release of “Papuan political prisoners,” referring to the easternmost Papua region convulsed by civil unrest in recent weeks.

The students also call for stepped up prevention of forest fires blamed for creating toxic smog, and a renewed effort to address human rights issues.

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