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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs