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North Aceh’s new bylaw separates male, female students

Drafters cite 'ethics' as need to ban social intercourse between the sexes

North Aceh’s new bylaw separates male, female students

Muslim women sit at Aceh's Great Mosque, in the capital city of Banda Aceh (Photo by Abby Seiff) 


The north Aceh district of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD), a predominantly Muslim province in Indonesia that has implemented sharia law since 2001, has passed legislation ordering separate classrooms for male and female students from secondary school level through university. 

The bylaw, or qanun, was approved on April 30 by district legislators.

According to Fauzan Hamzah, who heads the legislation committee of the district’s legislative body, the law calls for separate classrooms for male and female students in junior high school and senior high school, as well as universities. The order, he said, was in line with sharia regulations.

"Separation will help prevent students from social intercourse which violates the ethics and the sharia law," he told local news website kompas.com

The qanun also prohibits unmarried men and women from riding motorbikes together and bans traders from selling inappropriate clothes. Additionally, it bans keyboard and karaoke performances at wedding ceremonies and other activities held in schools, universities and offices.         

Hamzah told local media the law will be put into effect within a year, and that officials will be spending the intervening months educating people on the new regulations. Those violating the qanun will be punished, with penalties ranging from lectures to exile from a village.

Local headmasters told ucanews.com they were pleased with the new regulation and would happily implement separate sex classrooms.

Hasbi, who heads the state-run SMA 1 in Matangkuli sub-district, said he had no problem with segregation.

“We have 20 classrooms and 522 male and female students. If we have to separate their classrooms, that will be fine,” he told ucanews.com.

He recalled that his school did the same thing in 2008. “It was only one semester. Then we finished it as the number of female students was bigger than the number of male students,” he said.

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While segregation posed challenges, Hasbi said they were of the more mundane sort.

“The classrooms of male students were so dirty, because [the students] were too lazy to sweep the floor. Besides, teachers chose to teach female students since they were more willing to study than male students.”    

But small schools will likely face difficulty imposing such regulations, said Hasbi.

“Small schools with a small number of classrooms will find it difficult. How will they do it? They will need huge amounts of money,” he said.

His opinions were echoed by Ass Uadi, headmaster of the state-run SMP 4 in Meurah Mulia sub-district.

“Separation is not a new thing in Aceh. It is also implemented elsewhere, [such as] in Islamic boarding schools. I think it is good to control students’ behavior,” he told ucanews.com.

His new school has only two classrooms for 45 students. “The qanun will be implemented [next year], so we plan to build more classrooms. We will ask the local government for money,” he said.

He said he did not know the details of the regulations, but believed that segregation will not have an impact on teachers.

“I think male teachers can teach female students, and vice versa. Let us see what the qanun has to say about it. We will follow it as, again, such separation is not a new thing in Aceh,” he continued.

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