Govt nixes ‘straddling’
ban in Aceh

The Home Ministry says it will block a proposed bylaw from officials in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, to ban women from straddling motorcycles.

The bylaw (qanun) would contradict national laws and might infringe on the rights of women, Home Ministry legal chief Zudan Arif Fakrulloh said on Thursday.

Zudan said that every regulation passed by local administrations throughout the nation, including
qanun, must adhere to universal principles of human rights.

“We will get clarification from the local government in Lhokseumawe about its intention to issue such a regulation. I personally think that it will be discrimination against women. This planned bylaw will only treat women as the source of evil,” Zudan told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Zudan said that the Home Ministry could reject locally passed bylaws, even in Aceh, which is the only provincial-level area in the nation authorized to pass sharia-inspired regulations.

“We have the authority to declare that a bylaw is problematic and we can ask the local administration to amend it. If the local administration presses ahead with its move, we will file a report to the President so that he can issue an order for an amendment or revocation of the ordinance,” he added.

Lhokseumawe Mayor Suaidi Yahya previously announced that he wanted to enact a bylaw that would require women to sit sideways on motorcycles, with their legs dangling off to one side, instead of straddling the pillion.

Suaidi said that it would not only be “improper” for women in the province to straddle motorcylces, adding that the planned rule would also “save women from undesirable situations”.

Supporters of the scheme have said that women could easily expose their womanly curves by straddling the pillion.

In his New Year’s Day speech, Suaidi said that his administration would begin publicizing the proposed regulation next week, as it had garnered support from many parties, including local ulema.

Meanwhile, chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Otto Nur Abdullah, an Acehnese, called on the Lhokseumawe administration to reconsider its plan as it might promote more violence in the community.

“Most of the bylaws in Aceh govern the lives of women. However, women are always excluded from the process of making legislation. This is authoritarian leadership that sponsors the punishment of the people without trial,” Otto said.

Otto encouraged religious leaders and local traditional leaders to tell the public about their motivations in supporting the bylaw.

He said that local elders and religious leaders would share the blame if the plan backfired.

“The local administration is heavily patriarchal. It has failed to account for its main responsibility to bring prosperity to the people, when in fact sharia’s objective is about bringing prosperity. The ulema and community leaders should speak to the people and say that the bylaw is not part of sharia,”
he emphasized.

On Thursday, the Aceh branch of Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) issued a report that highlighted the adverse impact of sharia-inspired bylaws in the province.

The rights group recorded a rise in the number of violent acts committed in the name of sharia, from 46 cases in 2011 to 50 last year.

“The people use Islamic law to justify their violent mob rule by beating, publicly humiliating, or sometimes forcefully marrying off those who allegedly infringe the sharia,” Kontras Aceh coordinator Destika Gilang Lestari said, referring to alleged adulterers, among other offenders.

Kontras said that the proposed bylaw to ban women from straddling motorbikes would add to the long lines of problematic ordinances.

“We will file a complaint with the administration of Lhokseumawe, as the regulation obviously discriminates against women in the name of sharia,” Gilang said.

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.