News / Asia

Aceh Town Bans Women From Straddling Motorbikes

An Acehnese woman straddles on a motorbike on a road in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province, Indonesia, January 7, 2013.
An Acehnese woman straddles on a motorbike on a road in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province, Indonesia, January 7, 2013.
Kate Lamb
In Indonesia’s province of Aceh, where Islamic law governs, adultery, gambling, tight jeans and Mohawk haircuts are outlawed by religious police. Now, women passengers have been banned from straddling motorbikes. The new bylaw has sparked strong criticism with activists saying that discriminatory regulations, seemingly justified by Islam, are undermining Indonesia’s pluralist reputation.
 
In the Aceh town of Lhokseumawe, the moral crusade continues.  
 
Town Mayor Suaidi Yahya says local morals are slipping - and it’s ‘impolite’ for women to straddle motorbikes.
 
Religious leaders have expressed support for the new regulation, but women’s groups say it is ridiculous and unfair. They say local laws enacted in the name of religion and morality have disproportionately affected women.
 
Andi Yetriyani from the national body on women’s rights says the bylaw is a big step backwards for Aceh, and for Indonesia. 

“Basically this is a discriminatory regulation against women," Yetriyani stated. "It is also undermining the whole movement for advancing human rights in Indonesia.”
 
So why aren’t Achenese women taking to the streets?
 
Yetriyani says it’s not so easy. 

“These bylaws you know are framed under the sharia, so many of the Indonesian people do not dare to challenge it because you [they] will be condemned as against Islam,” Yetriyani said.
 
Women’s groups in Aceh say the local ordinance is a waste of money - as more moral police will be recruited to enforce it.
 
They argue that regional funds would be better spent on improving health and education.
 
Aceh was granted regional autonomy when a peace deal between the central government and Achenese separatists was brokered in Helsinki in 2005.
 
Since the agreement, and the subsequent introduction of sharia law, reports of human rights violations have steadily increased.
 
Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch says that a number of local laws in Aceh violate freedom of expression, association and religion. 

“These violations not only violate international human rights law but also violate the Helsinki agreement between Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement in which both sides agreed they are to protect and promote human rights,” he said.
 
The Indonesian Home Affairs Ministry says it will review and potentially repeal the motorbike bylaw.
 
The ministry has blocked more than 2,000 local laws across the country, but it has never revoked a sharia bylaw in Aceh.
 
Critics say the central government is reluctant to condemn hardline Islamic views.
 
But in Aceh, freedom of expression and association continue to be restricted on the grounds of Islamic morality. And minority religious groups are also under pressure.  Almost 30 churches were shut down in the province last year.
 
Harsono says that Islam in Indonesia is starting to bear some uncomfortable parallels with Pakistan - and that moderate voices are being drowned out.
 
“The thing is, more radical fundamentalist Muslim speakers are more outspoken. The battle is still going on. We still do not know what will be coming out of it. Although, we are nervous to see statistically the number of discriminatory bylaws are increasing," Harsono noted. "So I’m afraid it is going to be a long dark era. When will it end? When will it be enough is enough?”
 
In a country where the majority of the population holds moderate Islamic views, Aceh is the only Indonesian province governed by sharia law.
 
Aceh residents have been informed the new bylaw is expected to be implemented in the coming months.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Aurora from: Montana
January 14, 2013 9:56 PM
The women in Indonesia and their husbands need to band together to fight this absurd rule in the name of safety on the roads.

(Helmets should be mandatory)

by: NVO from: USA
January 14, 2013 5:05 PM
NEVER, EVER, bow down to any regime, at any time. Keep riding girls. IN YOUR FACE, REGIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by: Zach from: Wisconsin
January 14, 2013 11:41 AM
It's sad that these 'leaders' cannot avert their own eyes from something they feel is a sexual deviancy and instead blame women for their sexually gluttonous eyes

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
January 11, 2013 4:12 PM
I find it amazing, that almost 30 churches were shut down, and all the human rights organizations, especially in the EU, are once again looking the other way on-basic human rights. And any one that has ridden a motorcycle knows, that if you do not straddle the bike, your safety is seriously impared. The municipal by-law generators, should be personally responsible to provide a car, at their expense, to all the families that can only afford motorcycles, so that women can ride in a safe manner. Not stradling the motorcycle is extremely unsafe.... Stupidity in the name of religion has no bounds.
In Response

by: SINI RAO from: DARIEN, ILLINOIS USA
January 28, 2013 11:59 AM
Any one who thinks women are different when it comes to performing tasks are second to Men is nothing but non sense.
The straddling is safety issue. There should be no gender bias
when asessing the performance of day to day tasks are concerned. Islam and Women will never go together. Islam always treats women as second class to Men though both sexes in Islam are equal in all other respects. This should be
discouraged especially VOA. Just think of it and let us get the
message out.
In Response

by: Ny from: Canada
January 20, 2013 11:39 PM
Quote: " And any one that has ridden a motorcycle knows, that if you do not straddle the bike, your safety is seriously impared."
___________________________________

Agree.
In Response

by: Marbun Mbn from: Indonesia
January 11, 2013 9:46 PM
Probably, for some myopic religious leaders, straddling motorbike is a wrong human right...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs