Cairo, November 01: An official decision to ban women from wearing jeans and pants in West Aceh is stirring uproar in the Indonesian province, amid accusations of violating women’s rights.
“The enforcement of the regulation is an accumulation of the negative views against women,” Norma Susanti, Head of the woman and children’s division at Aceh Human Rights NGO Coalition, told The Jakarta Post Saturday, October 31.
Officials in West Aceh have forbidden women from wearing jeans and tight pants as of January.
Under the decision, Shari`ah police, tasked with enforcing Islamic law, will shred any offensive clothing and ask women to change the outfit into government-issued skirts.
The West Aceh district has already ordered 7,000 skirts of various sizes.
Norma argued that the decision was discriminatory and not in line with Islamic Shari`ah, applied in the autonomous province.
“Islamic Shari`ah is not discriminative against women,” she said.
“But it’s different when it is used as a political means by men to restrain women’s movements.”
The activist accused the local administration of enacting controversial laws to distract the people’s attention away from their economical and social woes.
“There are many important issues the government should be handling rather than dealing with dress codes or someone’s sins,” Norma said.
“We are accused of being people who are against God when we criticize such policies. These accusations have made us tired of continuing the struggle.”
Aceh enjoys autonomous rule since signing Helsinki Memo of Understanding (MoU) with the Indonesian government in 2005.
The historic agreement brought to an end three decades of bloody conflict between Aceh separatists and Indonesian forces in the region that had seen the death of some 15,000 people.
Muslims make up 98.6 percent of the province’s 3.93 million population.
“The ordinance is merely a circular which has no legal standing, except for the internal interests of the regency administration,” Saifudin said.
Rights activists said that the ban would violate the women’s rights.
“The regulation is against the principles of human rights and the 1945 Constitution,” said Taufik Riswan, director of West Aceh Women and Child Protection Research Institute.
Muslim Ibrahim, chairman of Aceh Ulema Assembly (MPU), agrees.
“We should not be arrogant and force others not to wear pants,” he said.
Experts argue that the ban has no legal grounds.
“The ordinance is merely a circular which has no legal standing, except for the internal interests of the regency administration,” said legal expert Saifudin Bantasyam from Syiah Kuala University.
He said the province has a law regulating the dress code in accordance with the Islamic Shari`ah.
“The ordinance doesn’t regulate on the types of clothing women should wear, but only a dress code that is decent and in accordance with Shari`ah, and only that.”