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Love, Sex, Religion?

While watching Andibachtiar Yusuf’s film ‘Love For Sale’, I couldn’t help but notice many cultural differences between myself and the cast. There were certain parts of the film that portrayed relationships very differently to what I would usually expect.

Some key scenes that demanded my curiosity occurred when Richard started reflecting on his past relationship with his ex girlfriend – reminiscing on their time together and their love for eachother. He looked heartbroken when he spoke of it – almost hard for him to get his words out. What could have gone so wrong? I thought, did she cheat? Did she move away? Did he have a change of heart? But no – it was purely based on their religious differences and his mother’s disapproval.

Prayitno, N 2018, 5 Hal yang Membuat Film Love For Sale Layak Kamu Tunggu, image,, viewed 6 August 2020, <>.

How odd, I thought – I never hear of such a thing in my community. Of course, family is of utmost importance always, and it’s always a good sign when your partner is liked by your family. BUT, I thought, what would my mother say if I bought someone home who had different religious beliefs to our family? “Oh my God! It’s so nice to meet you! Want a beer? Some food? Welcome!!!”. My family and the community that surrounds me are open to all religions – and all beliefs are respected, even if they differ from their own. Issues in differing religions is something I had never given much thought because it has never affected me. Maybe because I wasn’t brought up in a particularly religious household, my parents taught me about all the different religions as I grew up, and it was always my choice whether I decided to believe in one. Religion as a whole has never affected my choices of who I date, or who I surround myself with.

This urging curiosity of mine encouraged me to do some research. According to the website ‘Living in Indonesia’, it explains that by law, marriage is only legitimate if it has been “performed according to the respective religious beliefs of the parties concerned” (Living in Indonesia, 2020). This means that in order to get married, you must engage in a particular religious ceremony according to your religions requirements. It then goes on to say that all couples who marry in Indonesia must declare a religion – (Agnosticism and Atheism are not recognised). Marriage partners MUST be of the same religion in order to get married, otherwise one partner needs to change religion (Living in Indonesia, 2020). So it seems quite strict, your religion essentially decides who you can and can’t marry – now I can see why Richard’s mother was against his relationship. I have friends that have different religious beliefs to their partners, which has never seemed to be a problem. If, in the future, they wanted to get married – Australian law probably wouldn’t bat an eye.

Ethier, N 13 May, The groom vows to care for his soon-to-be wife to the father of the bride (my host father), image, The Personette, veiwed 6 August 2020, <>.

What about de facto relationships? I wondered. It seems that similar to Australia, in Indonesia, marriage is seen as an important, crucial step into adulthood and maturity. However, de facto relationships are neither legally or religiously recognised – so marriage is the only path to having children and living together (Walton, 2013). An article published by Inside Indonesia states that marriage is also the only arena in which sex is acceptable – pre marital sex remains socially taboo and couples who date “Western style” are usually presumed to be on their way to marriage (Walton, 2013).

Richard and Arini engaged in premarital relations in the film, which makes me wonder if this was a particularly taboo thing to include in an Indonesian film? Did the director want to shock the audience, or is this becoming a more modern thing to portray in films? After some more research, the SBS explains that in 2019 (soon after the film was released) the Indonesian Government proposed a ban on sex before marriage – which could include six months jail time or face a maximum fine of 10 million rupiah ($1,000) (Baker, 2019). This could even affect tourists! However, over 500,000 Indonesian residents signed a petition against this, with groups taking to the streets in protest. As a result, the President decided to review these changes – but they could still go ahead.

“Much of the code is extremely controversial in Indonesia and does not have consistent support in the community,” Mr Lindsey, a university student protester said.

Mr Lindsey explained that the laws were part of a conservative political trend that is taking hold of countries around the world (Baker, 2019). So, it seems that there are differing opinions on this subject in Indonesia. A recent study found that young people in Indonesia seem to be more open to engaging in premarital sex than their elders (Berliana, et. al., 2018). Perhaps this is becoming more accepted in Indonesian society like it has in Australia?

In my eyes, the Indonesian government seem quite ‘conservative’ if I may say? ‘Old fashioned’, maybe? Of course, there are many countries around the world view these acts as illegal and can even result in death. However, my relationship culture vs. Indonesian relationship culture seems quite different, based on how I was raised and where I grew up.

Well, thanks to my burgeoning wonder about Richard’s past and present relationships in the film, I have now gained a lot of insight into how relationships and religion are viewed in Indonesia compared to my own expectations.


Baker, N 2019, ‘Indonesia delays premarital sex ban. What does that mean for Aussie travellers?’, SBS News, news article, 20 September, viewed 6 August 2020, <’s%20President%20Joko%20Widodo%20has,criticism%20by%20human%20rights%20groups.>

Berliana, Sarni & Utami, Efri & Efendi, Ferry & Kurniati, Anna 2018, ‘Premarital sex initiation and time interval to first marriage among Indonesians’, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, vol. 54, pp. 1-27.

Living in Indonesia, A Site for Expatriates 2020, Getting Married in Indonesia, Living in Indonesia, viewed 6 August 2020, <,Protestant%20and%20Christian%2DCatholic%20faiths.>.

Walton, K 2013, ‘Caught between two happinesses’, Inside Indonesia, news article, 30 August, viewed 6 August 2020, <,live%20together%20and%20have%20children.&text=Historically%2C%20Indonesian%20women%20generally%20married,and%20had%20children%20soon%20afterwards.>


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