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Indonesia protests enter second week as vote on sex-ban bill delayed

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By Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s parliament on Monday officially agreed to delay to a next term a vote on a criminal code that bans sex outside marriage and penalises insulting the president’s honour as protests against the bill entered a second week.

President Joko Widodo had ordered a delay on Sept. 20 and asked the next parliament, which is due to be sworn in on Tuesday, to review 14 articles that had faced heavy criticism, including plans to cut the penalties for graft convictions.

But some current lawmakers had initially resisted, saying they could fix the bill before their term ended.

Lawmakers had rushed to finish debate on a number of bills in their final days in session, including passing into law a bill governing the anti-corruption agency, which activists say hurts its capacity to fight graft.

This sparked a series of student rallies across the country, some of the biggest since 1998 student protests fuelled unrest that led to the fall of former strongman leader Suharto.

On Monday, several thousand students, activists and union members gathered again near parliament in Jakarta.

“We are raising our voices again. (We) cannot do it just once, because parliament is deaf,” read a placard being held up by one protester who had climbed a tree.

More than 20,000 police and military personnel were deployed to maintain security in the capital on Monday, according to media.

Students also staged protests in the cities of Yogyakarta and Solo in central Java.

Last week, Widodo said he would consider revoking the KPK law and ordered police restraint after the death of two student protesters, one of whom died of bullet wounds, according to police.

Sandi Saputra Pulungan, an activist with the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), a green group, said the protests would continue until all of their demands were met.

“We see that in Indonesia, our democracy is in danger. It’s as though we’re not in a democracy, but rather we are returning to the era of the New Order,” Pulungan said, referring to the 32-year rule of the late president Suharto, who used the army to maintain tight control and contain opposition.

A list of student demands has been circulated on social media, which alongside opposing the new laws, includes stopping forest fires and removing a heavy military presence in the restive easternmost area of Papua.

(Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies and Giles Elgood)

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