I am glad to see that the women affected by this stupid ruling are fighting such discrimination. It’s sad to see in a country that calls itself a secular democracy. Incidentally, this is the same area that was decimated by the tsunami in 2004, with 170,000 lives lost.
(From press reports)
THE ADMINISTRATION of Lhokseumawe, Aceh, is planning to issue a bylaw banning women from straddling motorcycles, arguing that the practice is “improper” in a province governed by Islamic law. Lhokseumawe Mayor Suaidi Yahya said that women should sit sideways on motorcycles, with their legs dangling off to one side.
The planned regulation had been discussed with many parties, including local ulema, Suaidi said in his 2013 New Year’s speech.
The mayor said that the ban would restore fading local values caused by poor morality and make it easier to differentiate women from men when riding pillion. He said that the planned regulation could, in fact, uphold the dignity of women in the region.
Suaidi said that the administration would begin publicizing the proposed regulation next week.
“At the first phase, we will issue a circular on it. After a period of time, we will strengthen the circular [into] a regulation. Anyone who violates the regulation will face punishment,” he said.
The plan has sparked widespread criticism.
“We, the women of Lhokseumawe, strongly oppose this very discriminative regulation because it ignores the rights of women in conducting their daily activities,” Safwani, the executive director of Ranup Women Institute, said in Lhokseumawe.
She stated that as a woman, she felt more comfortable straddling the motorcycle while a passenger and added that there were much more urgent matters demanding the mayor’s attention, such as garbage disposal in the city.
Suaidi also said that he had been considering banning women from wearing denim. “In Islam, women are not allowed to wear jeans.”
M. Yusuf A. Samad, a member of Lhokseumawe Legislative Council, said that he supported the motorcycle-straddling ban.
“We need to improve the implementation of Sharia. The religious values of the Acehnese people have continued to fade,” he said.
According to Yusuf, straddling a motorcycle could make the curves of a woman’s body visibly clearer. “Showing the curves of a woman’s body is against Sharia,” Yusuf said.
Separately, the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) Chairwoman Yuniyanti Chuzaifah slammed the plan, saying that it was prejudiced against women.
“I cannot understand the aims of such a policy. Local government should focus more on providing protection and service to women who fall victim to violence and enhancing education for women instead,” she said.
Lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari shared Yuniyanti’s opinion, saying that sitting sideways on a motorcycle could leave riders more prone to accidents.
“In Malaysia, pillion riders are obliged to straddle due to safety reasons. In this case, Malaysians are smarter than the Lhokseumawe administration,” she said.
Women activists in Aceh have condemned the plan, calling it a lunatic proposal. “The way women ride a bike, how they speak and how they dress should not be the concern for the government,” said Norma Manalu of Balai Syura Ureung Inong Aceh NGO.
Aceh, the nation’s westernmost province, is the only region allowed to apply Sharia under the law on Acehnese special autonomy. Lawmakers in the province have continued to spark controversy due to the issuance of a number of Sharia-based regulations.
Among the controversial regulations is a bylaw regulating Koran-reading proficiency levels for prospective civil servants and a regulation banning women from wearing “tight” dresses.