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Indonesia approves anti-porn measure

October 31, 2008|The Associated Press

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia's parliament passed a bill banning pornography Thursday, ignoring opposition from lawmakers and rights groups who worry that it will be used to justify attacks on artistic, religious and cultural freedom.

More than 100 legislators stormed out before the vote, saying the measure went against the country's tradition of diversity, though the final version removed contentious clauses regulating dress and social behavior.

Ninety percent of Indonesia's 235 million citizens are Muslims, most of whom practice a moderate form of the faith. But many of its islands have large Christian and Hindu populations, and some women in tribal regions, such as Papua, still go topless.

A small group of Islamist parties argued that globalization was chipping away at the country's moral fiber, so it revived an anti-pornography bill originally drafted in 1999.

The proponents were forced to revise the legislation several times, dropping a ban on bikinis at tourist resorts, for instance.

The version that eventually passed focuses on the dissemination of material that contains pornographic images, gestures or conversations. Violators can be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison and fined up to $750,000.

"We're worried it will be used by hard-liners who say they want to control morality," said Baby Jim Aditya, a women's rights activist, noting that the bill allows ordinary people to play a role in preventing pornography.

"It could be used to divide communities."

Minister of Religious Affairs Mohammed Maftuh Basyuni contended that the bill, which requires the president's signature, would protect women and children against exploitation.

Cahyo Kumolo, a lawmaker who walked out before the vote, said, "The public strongly opposes this bill."

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