Kanishka Singh and Rami Ayyub, Washington – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed Washington's concern about certain provisions in Indonesia's new criminal code in a call Thursday with the country's foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, the State Department said.
Indonesian lawmakers approved a new criminal code in December banning sex outside marriage and prohibiting cohabitation between unmarried couples.
The code, decades in the making and created to replace a colonial-era set of laws, also includes articles that ban insulting the president and state institutions, and spreading views counter to the state ideology.
Critics have said the criminal code undermines civil liberties. The United Nations has said the laws threaten media freedom, privacy and human rights. Local officials have defended the code as reflective of Indonesia's identity.
The new criminal code does not appear to have affected the popularity of Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, whose approval rating reached an all-time high in a poll that came out late last month.
Four Democratic U.S. senator wrote a letter to Widodo earlier this month, expressing concern about the criminal code.
"We write to urge you to reconsider adopting those provisions and to ensure that any articles included in a revised criminal code are consistent with Indonesia's international human rights obligations and its own principles," the letter said. It was signed by Senators Edward Markey, Tammy Baldwin, Tammy Duckworth and Cory Booker.
In their call on Thursday, Blinken and the Indonesian foreign minister also discussed U.S. support for Indonesia's chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
[Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis.]