09/30/2016, 16.12
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Six-month maternal leave in Sharia-ruled Aceh province

Local authorities double maternal leave. Jakarta criticised the decision, claiming it violates national regulations. Provincial spokesman said the decision was taken to encourage breastfeeding and reduce malnutrition. Human rights advocates praise the measure.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Despite being the only province in Indonesia that enforces Sharia (Islamic law), albeit in a mild form, Aceh is the first to increase parental leave for women from three to six months.

The decision surprised both the national government and human rights activists, who now praise the governor of the province located in the northern part of Sumatra.

Provincial government spokesman Frans Dellian said that the decision was taken to encourage breastfeeding to fight stunted growth in children (due to malnutrition), a major problem in Aceh.

Some 92,000 women are expected to benefit from the measure. Women who take parental leave will be paid by the government in the first three months. The authorities have not yet decided what to do for the other three months.

National authorities have criticised the decision, claiming that it violates national regulations, which allows only three months of parental leave.

Yenni Yanti Linda, a 35-year-old hospital nurse in Aceh, was the first woman to benefit from the extension. "I am very happy,” she said, “because I have more time to spend with my son."

Aceh begun to enforce Islamic law in 2005, following a peace agreement between Jakarta and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), an Islamist separatist group.

This sparked to a lot of criticism because of the harshness of its laws, which include public beating for people who engage in homosexual relations, gamblers, alcohol drinkers and those who meet women outside marriage and family.

In addition, the province is notorious for a number of bans, especially against women who cannot wear jeans or tight skirts, travel astride motorcycles, dance in public or celebrate Saint Valentine.

Still for some human rights advocates, an extended parental leave shows that Aceh "is becoming more progressive". Still, the province "has much work to do change its discriminatory laws."

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