To put it simply, legal reform can be defined as a process or mission aiming to change the existing law(s) and/or the existing legal system to enhance the quality of such a legal system to meet the requirement of justice and the rule of law more effectively and efficiently. Under the rule of democracy, ideally, the legal reform mission should also aim to enhance the protection of human rights and diversities. Unfortunately, from Indonesia’s experience as a Muslim majority country, that’s not necessarily the case. The downfall of Suharto’s military regime, which ruled for more than three decades in Indonesia, led the country to make the biggest legal reform in its history. The constitution has been amended quite significantly, including the introduction of semi-autonomous governance for both provincial and district governments. Exactly from such legal reforms, the tendency towards Islamic fundamentalism/Islamism/political Islam also emerged. Along with the capacity of local (both provincial and district) governments to enact their own regulations on local matters, as the consequence of the semi-autonomous governance system, there have been more than 400 local regulations aiming as means to enforce the Sharia law to the populations. The most extreme one is what happens in the province of Aceh in the northern tip of Sumatra island. Through the Law 11/2006 on the Governance of Aceh, this province has become the only province in Indonesia having its own criminal legal system, which is criminal law based on sharia, that includes its distinct mode of punishment through public caning to the perpetrators. At the same time, the inclusion of several human rights principles into the amended constitution doesn’t give any positive significant effect on the protection of religious freedom and diversities. Contrarily from such a purpose, the Indonesian Constitutional Court, as also the product of legal reforms in the post-Suharto period, ironically defended a draconian law namely the Anti-Blasphemy Law which, among others, criminalizes those who are deemed as “religious deviants”. Apparently, those illustrations are sufficiently indicating how the legal reforms in Indonesia to some extents have led to a wrong way. In this session, my talk will elaborate and discuss the socio-legal context behind such legal dynamics, as well as compare it to Indonesia’s neighboring country, Malaysia, which is also a Muslim majority country.
Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law
Avenida Universidad 8 - Apartado 28
20560 Oñati (Gipuzkoa)