Rethinking the Constitutionality of Indonesia’s Flawed Anti-Blasphemy Law

Cekli Setya Pratiwi


This study examines the constitutionality of Indonesia’s Anti-Blasphemy Law, which has been challenged unsuccessfully at the Constitutional Court on three occasions, in 2009, 2012, and 2018. While the Court has acknowledged the law’s provisions are open to multiple interpretations, it insists on maintaining the law as it is, on the grounds that the right to religious expression is not absolute, as freedom and rights are restricted under Article 28J of the 1945 Constitution. The Court believes that canceling the law would create a dangerous legal vacuum. The ambiguity of the Court’s decisions on the constitutionality of the Anti-Blasphemy Law is illustrated in recent blasphemy cases that have not been explored in previous studies. This study uses a doctrinal legal approach to examine why the Anti-Blasphemy Law is flawed and to analyze to what extent the ‘particular constitutionalism’ approach influenced the Court’s decisions when declaring the constitutionality of the law. As such, the Court’s misinterpretation of the core principles of the competing rights – the right to religious freedom and the right to freedom of expression – and its standard limitation, have been ignored. The findings of this study show that in dealing with the Anti-Blasphemy Law, the Court has a narrow and limited recognition of human rights law. The Court’s fear of revoking the Anti-Blasphemy Law is based only on assumptions and is less supported by facts. The Court has failed to realize that the implementation of the flawed Anti-Blasphemy Law in various cases has triggered public disorder, with people taking justice into their own hands.


Constitutional Court; Constitutionality of Law; Indonesian Anti- Blasphemy Law; Religious Expression; Standard Limitation of Human Rights

Full Text:



Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia.

Arato, Julian. “Constitutionality and Constitutionalism beyond the State: Two Perspectives on the Material Constitution of the United Nations.” International Journal of Constitutional Law 10, no. 3 (July 1, 2012). icon/mor079.

ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, 18 November 2012. human-rights-declaration.

Asshiddiqie, Jimly. “Universalization of Democratic Constitutionalism and The Work of Constitutional Courts Today.” Constitutional Review 1, no. 2 (March 28, 2016).

Bielefeldt, Heiner. “Freedom of Religion or Belief--A Human Right under Pressure.” Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 1, no. 1 (April 1, 2012). https://

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Indonesia, Decision No. 140/PUU- VII/2009.

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Indonesia, Decision No. 84/PUU-IX/2012.

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Indonesia, Decision No. 76/PUU-XVI/2018.

Crouch, Melissa A. “Law and Religion in Indonesia: The Constitutional Court and the Blasphemy Law.” Asian Journal of Comparative Law 7, no. 1 (January 29, 2012).

Debeljak, Julie Frances. “Balancing Rights in a Democracy: The Problems with Limitations and Overrides of Rights under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.” Melbourne University Law Review 32, no. 2 (2008).

Donald, Alice, and Erica Howard. “The Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief and Its Intersection with Other Rights.” ILGA-Europe, January 2015. http:// religion_or_belief_and_its_intersection_with_other_rights__0.pdf.

Durham, W. Cole. “Religious Freedom in a Worldwide Setting: Comparative Reflections.” In The Proceedings of the 17th Plenary Session on Universal Rights in a World of Diversity: The Case of Religious Freedom 29 April-3 May 2011. Vatican City: Pontificia Academia Scentiarum, 2012.

Durham, W. Cole, and Brett G. Scharffs. Law and Religion: National, International, and Comparative Perspectives. Second edition. Aspen Select Series. New York: Wolters Kluwer, 2019.

Eddyono, Luthfi Widagdo. “The First Ten Years Of The Constitutional Court Of Indonesia: The Establishment Of The Principle Of Equality And The Prohibition Of Discrimination.” Constitutional Review 1, no. 2 (2016).

Fraser, Julie. “Challenging State-Centricity and Legalism: Promoting the Role of Social Institutions in the Domestic Implementation of International Human Rights Law.” The International Journal of Human Rights 23, no. 6 (July 3, 2019).

Harsono, Andreas. “Indonesia to Expand Abusive Blasphemy Law.” Human Rights Watch, October 31, 2019. expand-abusive-blasphemy-law.

Henkin, Louis, ed. Human Rights. 2nd ed. University Casebook Series. New York, NY: Thomson Reuters/Foundation Press, 2009.

Howie, Emily. “Protecting the Human Right to Freedom of Expression in International Law.” International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 20, no. 1 (January 2, 2018).

Kuznetsov, Dmitry. “Freedoms Collide: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion in Russia in Comparative Perspective.” Russian Law Journal 2, no. 2 (February 17, 2015).

Langford, Malcolm. “Critiques of Human Rights.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 14, no. 1 (October 13, 2018). lawsocsci-110316-113807.

Law No. 39 on 1999 on Human Rights. tahun-1999.html.

Lindsey, Tim and Simon Butt. “State Power to Restrict Religious Freedom: An Overview of the Legal Framework.” In Religion, Law, and Intolerance in Indonesia. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Lindsey, Tim and Helen Pausacker, eds. Religion, Law and Intolerance in Indonesia. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

Mondal, Anshuman A. “Articles of Faith: Freedom of Expression and Religious Freedom in Contemporary Multiculture.” Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations 27, no. 1 (January 2, 2016).

Nash, David and Chara Bakalis. “Incitement to Religious Hatred and the ‘Symbolic’: How Will the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 Work?” Liverpool Law Review 28, no. 3 (2007).

Posner, Eric A. The Twilight of Human Rights Law. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Scanlon, Thomas. “A Theory of Freedom of Expression.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 1, no. 2 (1972).

Schmitter, Philippe and Terry Karl. “What Democracy Is ... and Is Not.” Journal of Democracy 2, no. 3 (January 1970).

Shepherd, Amy. “Extremism, Free Speech and the Rule of Law: Evaluating the Compliance of Legislation Restricting Extremist Expressions with Article 19 ICCPR.” Utrecht Journal of International and European Law 33, no. 85 (August 31, 2017).

Smet, Stijn. “Freedom of Expression and the Right to Reputation: Human Rights in Conflict.” American University International Law Review 26, no. 1 (2010).

Taylor, Paul M. Freedom of Religion UN and European Human Rights Law and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Tehusijarana, Karina M. “Police End Probe into Blasphemy Allegations against Sukmawati.” The Jakarta Post, June 2018. news/2018/06/17/police-end-probe-into-blasphemy-allegations-against- sukmawati.html.

Temperman, Jeroen. “Freedom of Expression and Religious Sensitivities in Pluralist Societies: Facing the Challenge of Extreme Speech.” BYU L Rev 3 (2011).

The Rabat Action Plan of 2012, October 5, 2012, par. 19.

Uddin, Asma T. “Provocative Speech in French Law: A Closer Look at Charlie Hebdo.” FIU Law Review 11, no. 1 (September 22, 2015). lawrev.11.1.14.

UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, 171

UN Human Rights Committee, (2011). General Comment No. 34, Article 19, Freedoms of opinion and expression.

UN Human Rights Committee, (1993). General Comment No. 22, Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “International Law.” OHCHR, 2021. internationallaw.aspx.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Status of Ratification Interactive Dashboard.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GA Res 217A (III), 10 December 1948, A/810 91.


Article Metrics

Abstract view : 616 times
PDF view : 226 times


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Constitutional Review