'Deliberation of porn bill offers protection to women, children'

The Indonesian Ulema Council has come out in support of the controversial pornography bill being deliberated by the House of Representatives, arguing the bill is necessary to protect the morals of the young. The council's chairman,
Amidhan, who is also a member of the National Commission on Human Rights, outlined the reasons this bill is needed in an interview with The Jakarta Post's Tiarma Siboro.

Question: Do you believe the pornography bill will be effective in checking the perceived moral decay in the country?

Answer: The deliberation of the bill on pornography is based on two reasons. First, our people no longer consider pornography or pornographic acts as taboo. This is a negative impact of the spirit of reform. Indeed, reform has led to press freedom.

Well, actually press freedom has nothing to do with pornography, but it has become more difficult to differentiate between magazines that are journalistic creations providing information to the public and pornographic publications. Pornographic actions occur because women, as well as children, have been exploited.

So, people must understand that this draft law is being deliberated because we are trying to protect women and children, not to criminalize them.

We have determined in the draft certain acts that can be categorized as pornographic. If erotic acts are intentionally shown for certain benefits, we call them pornographic actions.

Second, the bill should be seen as a filter for globalization, which in some cases has had negative impacts on our cultures and identities. Even in Western countries, pornography is not displayed in public. It is not accessible to children, for instance. Therefore, we need a pornography law because the existing laws, such as the Criminal Code, Child Protection Law, Domestic Violence Law and Broadcasting Law, are not enough to protect our people from all forms of pornography.

How about those who oppose the bill?

I think some people oppose the bill for fear that it may threaten freedom of expression. Balinese are worried the bill may affect their tourist industry. The same anxiety is seen in Papua or Batam. Even the Javanese are afraid they will no longer be able to wear their traditional off-the-shoulder blouses. Many opponents believe that a group of people from a certain religion was behind this bill. I must say that interfaith leaders stand against pornography.

Other people also suspect the implementation of the pornography law will create too many limitations, including banning girls from wearing tank tops at shopping malls. They (the protesters) seem to have forgotten that the bill sets conditions to allow existing cultures and traditions to remain. The law will only be as rigid as it is written: only those who intentionally exhibit pornographic actions in public will face sanctions.

Will it be subjective, because we cannot judge other people's minds?

Principally, we cannot arrest people and punish them because of the way they think. There will be a legal mechanism to prosecute people accused of performing pornographic acts in public. And please underline that only people who intentionally demonstrate pornography are subject to this law.

Stripteases, for instance, I think will be subject to the pornography law. As for dangdut singers who perform erotic dances on TV, should we call the singers, especially female ones, promoters of pornography, despite their claim that their erotic moves breathe life into the music and songs? Those who disagree can turn off their TVs.

Or, in another example, can we consider pictures of nude models as art or just a demonstration of eroticism? I guess it is not easy to judge these things.

I'm not talking about politics, but please, let us get into a further discussion regarding pornography before we decide to split up the republic. I can assure the public the pornography law will not endanger freedom of expression. In some countries where sex is more freely discussed there are fewer sex crimes than in countries where sex is taboo. How do you see this?

This is another problem. We all know that our country has trouble enforcing the law against all types of crimes. In Western countries, the legal systems are better run. They have stern legal instruments and they have reliable law enforcers. But what do we have? Most of our law enforcement agencies have failed to uphold moral values. We cannot compare Indonesia with Western countries. Our law enforcement agencies have always been defensive, saying they lack the legal instruments to empower themselves.

Why don't we campaign for sex education, instead of proposing this controversial porn bill?

Sex education can only be accepted in countries where the majority of the population is well educated. I guess a mother can give a lesson to her daughter about how the dangers of premarital sex. That's enough. But sex education for uneducated people, to some extent, will just arouse them to commit pornographic acts. Do we really want to see our people trapped in promiscuity? Where do we place our sense of morality? Why is the country so concerned about people's private lives, when it cannot even do anything about corrupt state officials, for example?

It is right that we must also pay attention to other problems facing this country, including corruption, terrorism, drug trafficking and others. In relation to pornography, I think we need stern regulations until our people are mature enough to understand that pornographic acts are a private matter, and cannot be shown in public. Just like religion, which is a private relationship with God.

Published by The Jakarta Post on March 24, 2006