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Indonesian police fire tear gas at sex law protesters

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Indonesian students hold a protest outside the parliament building in Jakarta against the government's proposals to criminalise pre-marital sex, restrict sales of contraceptives, make it illegal to "insult" the president and toughen the Muslim majority country's blasphemy laws and plans to weaken the anti-corruption commission.

[JAKARTA] Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters outside Indonesia's parliament Tuesday, an AFP reporter said, as thousands demonstrated nationwide over plans to outlaw pre-marital sex, and weaken the anti-corruption agency.

Masses of protesters wiped their faces and scattered in all directions as chaos erupted in the centre of the sprawling capital Jakarta.

The police action came after flag and placard waving demonstrators gathered in Jakarta and other cities - including cultural capital Yogyakarta, holiday hotspot Bali and Makassar on Sulawesi island - for a second day in a row.

On Tuesday, lawmakers debated a wide-ranging legal overhaul that would criminalise pre-marital sex, restrict sales of contraceptives, make it illegal to "insult" the president and toughen the Muslim majority country's blasphemy laws.

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A vote on the bill was original scheduled for Tuesday. But President Joko Widodo on Friday called for a delay in passing the proposed changes after a public backlash.

The mooted changes could affect millions of Indonesians, including gay and heterosexual couples who might face jail for having sex outside wedlock, or having an affair.

Mr Widodo's call for a delay came as the Australian embassy in Jakarta issued a fresh travel advisory, warning that the legislation could put unmarried foreign tourists in the crosshairs.

Millions of tourists visit Bali and other beach destinations in the Southeast Asian nation.

Mr Widodo this week stood firm on plans to pass a separate bill that critics fear would dilute the investigative power of graft-riddled Indonesia's corruption fighting agency - known as the KPK - including its ability to wire-tap suspects.

Updating Indonesia's criminal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era, has been debated for decades and appeared set to pass in 2018 before it fizzled.

A renewed push this year, backed by conservative Islamic groups, was met with a tidal wave of criticism over what many saw as a draconian law that invaded the bedrooms of a nation with some 260 million people - the fourth most populous on Earth.

An online petition calling for the bill to be scrapped garnered half a million signatures while hundreds of thousands took to social media to vent their frustration.

AFP