Are bikinis allowed? Indonesia’s anti-porn law repels tourists

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INDONESIA – The association of tour guides at the Baturraden holiday resort in Banyumas, Central Java, has blamed the much-decried anti-pornography law for a slew of recent cancellations by Dutch tourists planning to visit the area.

Association chairman Tekad Santoso said Friday he had received several emails from Dutch would-be holidaymakers saying they were canceling their visits over fears they could fall foul of the law while enjoying Baturraden’s attractions.

“It’s true, they said they were afraid the police would arrest them for bathing in the local sulfur springs,” Te-kad said.

Baturraden, he went on, was a popular destination among Dutch tourists, with an average of two tour groups visiting the resort each week.

Tekad added that for most Dutch tourists, Baturraden held a sentimental attraction because of its rich Dutch colonial heritage.

“So when they come here, they feel they’re cherishing memories of their ancestors,” he said, adding he had shown Dutch tour groups around the area for more than 20 years.

He also said most of the tour guides in the area had built up a good rapport with the visitors.

One of the most popular activities here, Tekad went on, was to bathe in the natural hot springs and enjoy a sulfur wrap and massage, during which the men normally wore only shorts and the women bikinis.

“It seems they followed the news on the porn law in Indonesia and got the idea they could be jailed for bathing like that, just because of the law,” he said.

The controversial anti-pornography bill was passed recently by the House of Representatives and signed into law last week by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Djatmiko, chairman of the Baturraden tourism community association, concurred the resort had long built up good relations with Dutch tourists.

“The relations are so good, (the tourists) established the Tileng Foundation to help improve Baturraden’s education sector,” he said, citing a local elementary school that had received a donation of Rp 600 million (US$54,500, S$78,725) from the foundation.

Djatmiko said an average of 1,000 Dutch tourists visited Baturraden annually.

However, he also said at least three planned visits by Dutch tour groups had been canceled since the law was enacted.

“But I don’t think it’s just about the porn law; the global financial crisis could also be behind the cancellations,” he was quick to point out.