Marianne Kearney, JAKARTA
What do watching a film about rape and kissing in public have in common? In Indonesia, they will soon be subject to the same punishment, if clerics have their way.
At my local Benhill cinema, where violent fantasies get regular screenings, discerning viewers have been able to watch Rape Trap and Rape Union in the past few weeks. Yet under new anti-pornography laws, drafted by the Indonesian Clerics' Council and currently being considered by parliament, people kissing in public will be punished just as harshly as those who watch the latest rape fantasies: with a maximum of five years in jail and fines of up to 250 million rupiah (HK$223,000).
Costing only a few thousand rupiah, a ticket to Jakarta's seedy cinemas is popular with men, while some women also frequent the shows, offering services in the cinema.
Judging by the number of cinemas and the brisk trade in pirated pornographic VCDs, watching erotica appears to be more popular than any passionate kissing in public. In fact, kissing in public is very rare.
Many of the popular films are not nearly as raunchy as their titles and lurid posters suggest. Erotic Bollywood films, favoured here, invariably feature shapely girls in tight clothes being kissed by Indian hunks, but a lot is left to the imagination.
But if Jakartans want real porn, they only have to go to any local market. The past five years have seen an explosion of pirated pornographic films available in markets, and anti-pornography lobbyists say they hope the draft laws will stop this growing business.
But the line between public displays of passion and porn is very fine in this draft. Pornography is defined as 'content in the media or communications medium intended to inspire ideas about sex by exploiting sex, displays of nudity or erotica'.
Under the laws, anyone performing erotic dances or wearing sexy clothes could also face the harsh penalties. Thus, Malay-Bollywood pop sensation, Inul, whose sensual dangdut dancing has been labelled pornographic, might find she can no longer dance in public.
In the eyes of the council, erotic dancing and immodest behaviour, such as kissing in public, are just as responsible for the destruction of Indonesia's morals as hardcore porn.
'People say that what Inul does is just artistic expression, but we are of the opinion that what is done by these singers is very vulgar and just too hot,' said Neng Djubaedah , one of the lawyers who drafted the proposed law. The pornography explosion is also responsible for rape, murders, abortion and has encouraged homosexual acts, he says.
Given the corrupt nature of the police, one suspects that any new laws will have little effect on the street, except possibly driving the thriving pirating business underground.