Asia in 2019 - Sharyn Graham Davies: Punitive surveillance "great concern"

In an Asia Media Centre series, we asked Sharyn Graham Davies to reflect on developments in 2019 and look ahead to 2020.

What developments, events or trends in Asia have interested you the most in 2019? And why?

The increasing punitive surveillance of people’s lives across Asia is of great concern to me. We see this in Hong Kong especially.

But less reported is what is happening in Indonesia. It is likely in the near future that Indonesia will pass new laws significantly encroaching on people's rights to sexual autonomy; to critique the government; and to join unions.

If, for instance, all sex outside of marriage is criminalised, as looks likely, this will have disastrous effects on healthcare. HIV rates are growing in Indonesia, particularly among heterosexual wives and mothers. If sex outside of marriage becomes a criminal offence, people will be even less likely to seek healthcare for fear of fines or even imprisonment.

How does this impact New Zealand?

Restrictions on human rights in Asia will impact New Zealand. While people will significantly worry about, for instance, traveling to Bali, if sex outside of marriage is banned (what’s been framed as the Bali Bonking Ban), it will also impact our relations with Indonesia. Given the importance New Zealanders place on human rights, people will not want to do business with Indonesia if it continues to increasingly penalise sex outside marriage.

What will you be watching out for in 2020?

 Developments in the criminalisation of sex outside marriage in Indonesia.