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Indonesian women face new discriminatory regulations

A new report by the NGO, Human Rights Watch, highlights the heightened discrimination that Indonesian women faced in 2013, largely as a result of a slew of new discriminatory regulations by local governments.

The report quotes Indonesia’s official Commission on Violence against Women which reported last August that national and local governments in Indonesia had passed 60 new discriminatory regulations in 2013.

These are in addition to the 282 such rules already on the books, which include 79 local bylaws requiring women to wear the hijab, or head scarf.

Although the Ministry of Home Affairs has announced its intention to revoke a handful of these, the majority remain in place.

For example, Lhokseumawe, a city in northern Sumatra’s Aceh province, banned women from straddling motorcycles. They are only permitted to ride side saddle, supposedly to prevent women from violating “Islamic values.” Aceh, an area with considerable autonomy from Jakarta, is the only province in Indonesia to follow Shariah law.

In the neighbouring city of Bireuen a further local regulation enacted in May prohibits women from dancing.

These new local by-laws only perpetuate the discrimination that women face across the entire region as the result of earlier laws, such as the one related to “seclusion, “ that criminalises the co-presence of two adults of the opposite sex, who are not married or related by blood, in an “isolated place.”

The report however makes it clear that discriminatory practices are not restricted to Aceh. In Gorontalo province on the island of Sulawesi, for example, the government transferred its entire female support staff to other offices in July last year, in a bid to discourage putative extramarital affairs between male officials and their female secretaries.

Plans were also announced in Prabumulih city in southern Sumatra to make it mandatory for high school girls to submit to virginity tests, to battle premarital sex and prostitution.

These plans were, however, withdrawn following a public outcry.

Indonesia is a Muslim-majority nation. However, it is not a theocracy, and with the exception of Aceh, Shariah law is not observed in the archipelago.

The country was ranked 95th out of the 136 countries surveyed by the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 6:26:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/indonesian-women-face-new-discriminatory-regulations/article5618028.ece

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