INDONESIA: Legislators ready to start anew on porn bill

After much debate, lawmakers seek new legal measures to regulate pornographic materials

Jakarta Post
Saturday May 27, 2006

By M. Taufiqurrahman

The House special committee on the pornography bill will rework its draft to focus on curbing the prevalence of obscene materials, a development that brings the heated discussion about its contents back to square one.

The decision was made after committee members agreed that the current draft denied people's basic rights and also was rife with inconsistencies, lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

"Proponents of the bill have repeatedly said that it was to protect women and children, but there was no mention in the bill about laws that protect women and children as its legal consideration," Eva said, adding the revamping of the draft would amount to drawing up a new bill.

She said that after taking into account the noisy demonstrations for and against the bill, committee members also agreed to focus on measures to curb the production and distribution of pornographic materials, instead of restricting individual behavior.

The member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction, a staunch opponent of the current bill, said the bill was drafted in 1999 before there was a greater protection of basic rights enshrined in the amended Constitution.

She said passing the current bill into law would only heighten tensions between the opposing sides. "We don't want a law that will tax us with grave social costs in the future."

Various groups have united to protest the bill, arguing it will stifle the country's cultural diversity and suppress minority groups if it becomes law.

"Preparation of the new draft alone will take at least three months," Eva said.

Special committee chairman Balkan Kaplale of the Democratic Party insisted the deliberation of the bill would be completed by mid-June, with only a plenary session necessary for its endorsement.

Similar inconsistent statements and actions by Balkan have annoyed fellow committee members, who accuse him of incompetence. Some of the members, mostly from the PDI-P faction, earlier demanded Balkan be replaced.

Lawmaker Hilman Rasyad Syihab of the Prosperous Justice Party, the bill's strongest political supporter, described the changes as an amendment, not an overhaul.

However, Hilman agreed the amendment would focus on provisions designed to curb production and distribution of porn.

Balkan, contacted separately by the Post, did not consider the changed draft to be out of the ordinary.

"There has indeed been an amendment in the bill, but it was only one among many stages that a law has to go through before being approved," he said in a telephone interview from Samarinda, East Kalimantan.