Jakarta Globe, January 12, 2013
A network of women’s and human rights organizations has called upon women living in the Aceh city of Lhokseumawe to ignore a bylaw banning female passengers from straddling motorcycles.
“We ask the people of Lhokseumawe not to abide by the regulation so that the local government learns a lesson on how to make wise directives,” Affan Ramli, a spokesman for the Care for Shariah Civil Society Network (JMSPS), said on Friday, as quoted by Antaranews.com.
The ban is deceiving to the public, according to the JMSPS, because neither Shariah law or precedents set in the development of Islamic jurisprudence deal with the prohibition of women sitting astride on motorcycles.
“None of Aceh’s traditional or local laws forbid women from straddling motorcycles,” Affan said. “In the history of Aceh, sitting manners have never been stipulated by the government. It was fully created from education and habit.”
Suaidi Yahya, the mayor of Lhokseumawe, recently told the Jakarta Globe that he wanted to introduce the bylaw because he had seen people’s behavior and morals straying too far from Aceh’s Islamic cultural values.
“We want to save women from things that will cause them to violate Shariah law,” he said. “We wish to honor women with this ban, because they are delicate creatures.”
Despite facing widespread criticism over the bylaw, the government in Lhokseumawe on Monday started enforcing the regulation, though only for civil servants.
The local government circulated a letter explaining the need for women to side-saddle motorcycles while in the passenger’s seat in order to prevent immoral acts. The letter also proposed banning men and women from hugging or holding hands while on vehicles.
“We will impose sanctions on [those who break the law]. We will shame them, warn them or fire them,” Dasni Yuzar, the secretary of the Lhokseumawe administration, said, as quoted by KBR68h.com.