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Women may be banned from straddling motorbikes

Activists up in arms over proposed law

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

January 3, 2013

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The mayor of Aceh's second-largest city this week proposed a ban on women riding astride motorbikes.  

In his New Year speech, Lhokseumawe's mayor, Suaidi Yahya, said the ban will restore morality in the city. It will be presented to the public next week and could go into effect as soon as a few months. 

"We wish to honor women with this ban because they are delicate creatures,” Yahya said.

“We’ve seen that people’s behaviors and morals are getting far from Aceh’s Islamic cultural values,” he told the Jakarta Globe. "We want to save women from things that will cause them to violate Islamic law."

Under the ban, women will have to sit side-saddle with their legs dangling off to one side. 

While critics suggest riding side-saddle is less safe than straddling the seat, activists say the ban would violate women’s rights. 

Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, who heads the Jakarta-based National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said the administration should ask women before creating such a ban.

“Ask them about the safest position while riding a motorbike,” she said. "This is a form of violence against women.”

“If [the ban] is based on moral presumption related to sexuality, it once again creates prejudice against women,” she said.

Komnas Perempuan commissioner Yustina Rostiawati said regulation must protect people, not limit their movement.

“Doesn’t [the administration] have issues such as education, health and people’s welfare that should be dealt with properly?” she said.

Aceh began implementing Islamic law in 2001. Since then, crimes such as gambling and drinking alcohol have been punished by caning.  

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