Islamic Sharia in Indonesia: Women banned from wearing trousers and jeans

(AKI/The Jakarta Post) - Women wearing jeans and other trousers in Indonesia's West Aceh will now face Islamic Sharia police, as will clothes vendors selling slacks for women. West Aceh Regent Ramli M.S. issued the controversial regulation on Tuesday.

Those found wearing tight trousers, such as jeans, will have them cut by Sharia police, and will be forced to wear loose-fitting attire.

"We have issued the regulation to further enforce Islamic Sharia (law) granted by the central government," Ramli told Indonesian daily The Jakarta Post by phone on Tuesday.

To anticipate the huge number of slacks to be cut by police during raids, the West Aceh regency administration has prepared around 7,000 long skirts, which will be provided for free to those caught wearing trousers.

According to Ramli, the new regulation will be effective as of 1 January, 2010.

The regulation also prohibits clothes vendors in the regency from selling slacks or jeans to women.

To implement the regulation, the West Aceh administration will issue an order for Sharia police to conduct raids and patrols in every district in the regency.

The raids will mainly target the regency capital of Meulaboh.

Ramli said he was positive the policy would spark some protest among residents across Aceh, especially in West Aceh.

However, he said he would insist on enforcing the regulation despite possible protests. Although it has yet to be implemented, women in Meulaboh have voiced objection to the ban.

As women, they slammed the regulation as discriminatory, saying it violated their right to freedom of expression.

"I'm surprised the mentality of the Aceh leader is so old-fashioned and primitive.

"There are many other things the administration should handle rather than regulating what women in the province should wear," said a medical worker in Meulaboh, Lola Amalia.

She said the West Aceh administration may have suffered from the euphoria of Islamic Sharia without thinking about the reality of people's conditions.

"I doubt the regulation is the wish of the West Aceh community at large. One of the regent's tricks is to seek sensation," said Lola.

Lola said she was confident the regulation would not be implemented effectively in Aceh society, adding that in principle she had no qualms about wearing clothing regarded as appropriate and in accordance with Islamic Sharia.

However, she said she was unaware which type kind of clothing the administration regarded as appropriate for women in West Aceh to wear.

"It will not be possible for the government to force every woman in West Aceh to wear long skirts.

"Not all women like to wear such clothing," said Lola.

Ramli previously issued a regulation prohibiting government agencies from serving members of the public who wore "un-Islamic" clothing, such as tight jeans and slacks, to government offices.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that strictly enforces Islamic Sharia law, a move that was implemented to suppress the separatist movement in the mainly Muslim region.

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