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Sexy is in the Eye of the Beholder

Protests Grow in Bali and Across the Nation Against Renewed Efforts to Pass Anti-Pornography Legislation.

(9/22/2008) Renewed efforts by national legislators to strong-arm a controversial anti-pornography bill through the National Legislature has many Balinese joining a national movement to defeat a moralistic piece of legislation seen as threatening national unity.

If passed in its present form, it is feared that the RUU Pornografi would impose a fundamentalist sectarian moral code that could sacrifice woman's rights; outlaw traditional forms of artistic expression; declare a number of ancient Indonesian monuments to be obscene and subject to potential demolition; and allow individuals and groups to impose their standards of obscenity on others. Of particular concern are clauses in the new law that purportedly allow and encourage community-based vigilante groups to enforce the new RUU Pornografi.

Bali Protests

Reflecting demonstrations taking place across all of Indonesia, a series of large-scale demonstrations have been held in Bali protesting the new law. Thousands of protestors have joined large scale demonstrations, some participants in various states of undress, holding banners and posters claiming the new law will destroy national culture and be divisive to national unity.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), more than 5,000 people occupied the lawn in front of the Provincial Parliament Building in Denpasar to protest what the participants see as the criminalization of Balinese aesthetic values which celebrate the human form on an Island where the symbolization of male and female genitalia (i.e., lingga and yoni) are a leitmotif omnipresent in statuary, ancient monuments, religious offerings and cultural performance.

One public protest last week before the offices of Bali's Governor Made Mangku Pastika saw protestors symbolically seal the building's entrance with a pair of men's underpants.

AFP quotes Wayan Sayoga, a Balinese intellectual as saying, "Balinese and other ethnic groups have a different view on what sexual or pornographic materials are . . .we can view nudity without being trapped by lust because we look at it from an aesthetical perspective.

Other protestors asked if the new law would suddenly label as "immoral" Balinese women whose traditional kebayas reveal cleavage, half-naked Balinese kecak dancers or those male citizens of Irian Jaya who favor the koteka or traditional penis gourd.

On an even more practical level, it remains unclear if the new law mandate the removal of priceless pieces of art from Bali's traditional art museums or will force scantily-clad tourists to flee from Bali's beaches and swimming pools.

To counteract the law now being driven rough-shod through the parliament by mostly Islamic legislators, protests continue across the nation while teams of Bali's political and community leaders are traveling to Indonesia's capital to lobby against the new legislation.

Some political observers see more sinister forces at play in the current effort to pass the RUU Ponografi, claiming there's political capital to be made by certain groups eager to further seditious acts of provoking widespread feelings of cultural and political disenfranchisement via what is, in its ultimate aim, a surreptitious agenda for national disintegration.