Two women and a man sit at a cafe in Banda Aceh (AFP Photo/Chaideer Mahyuddin)
A new ban on women working in and visiting cafes and other entertainment venues after 11pm in the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh is discriminatory and ineffective, critics say, while some women also worry how the partial curfew will affect their livelihoods.
Starting earlier this month, Internet cafes, tourist sites, sports facilities and entertainment venues were instructed to refuse service to women after 11pm unless they were accompanied by a husband or male family member. Women are also being barred from working in such businesses after the cut-off time.
But Banda Aceh Mayor Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal told AFP the municipal government directive had been "politicized" and was aimed at shielding women from sexual harassment.
"Our aim is to provide protection to female employees, especially those who work in areas such as cafes, restaurants, Internet cafes and tourist attractions," she said.
Banda Aceh is the capital of Aceh province, which is alone among Indonesian provinces in implementing Islamic law and making homosexuality, gambling and drinking alcohol punishable by caning.
Yuni, a 21-year-old cafe worker, worried how the new curfew might impact her salary.
“It’s fine if we have to finish working at 11pm,” she told ucanews.com by phone. “But it means that the income of the cafe will be smaller, and automatically the salaries of employees will be smaller, too. I don’t want this to happen.”
Yuni expressed skepticism about how much impact the new rules would have on women’s safety, saying that violence against women can happen at any time of the day. Either way, the curfew has yet to affect her, she says — it was introduced last week, but her cafe remained open until midnight.
Nia, a 20-year-old who works in a drug store, said she supported the stated reasons behind the curfew. But she wondered if it would merely give the local sharia police, known as Wilayatul Hisbah (WH), a further license to target women regardless of their actions.
“Members of WH don’t care about it,” Nia told ucanews.com by phone. “They might just arrest women who are still out after 11pm. Some women, in fact, are workers just like me that just finished working.”
Rosalina Rasyid from LBH Apik Aceh, a legal aid group for women, questioned the necessity of a partial curfew.
“Why do women always become the subjects?” she said in an interview.
The curfew, she said, will not effectively protect women from violence, since many instances of abuse happen at home.
She said LBH Apik Aceh recorded 539 cases of violence against women in Aceh from January 2013 until December 2014. Two-thirds of these cases were examples of domestic violence.
Rasyid worried that this move restricting women’s rights in the provincial capital would spread to other parts of Aceh.
“What we worry about is that the mayor’s move will be followed by other district heads in Aceh,” she said.
However, Banda Aceh’s directive has drawn concern from the national government. Vice President Jusuf Kalla questioned whether it was the right move, according to local media.
“We cannot just assume that women encounter trouble at night,” he said, according to The Jakarta Post. “This assumption should be taken into consideration. Acehnese society has to be smart in managing itself and it should be wise in managing this.”
Additional reporting from AFP