10/30/2009, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Tight jeans prohibited in Aceh. Women in revolt

by Mathias Hariyadi
The local government intends to introduce a law imposing a dress more in keeping with the precepts of Islam. For men, no shorts. Anyone caught wearing outlawed clothes will be forced to wear "larger" attire that covers the figure. Residents of Jakarta advise "astronaut suits."

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Some call it "stupid", others are asking the government to "deal with more serious matters"; Jakarta residents invite their counterparts in Aceh to "dress like astronauts". Women, however, feel discriminated against and promise a battle. A proposed law of the provincial government of Aceh, a "special" territory north of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, which prohibits women from wearing jeans and shorts for men, has provoked the population’s ire. Anyone caught red-handed will be stripped and forced to wear "special clothing" provided by the authorities.

For the women of Aceh the ban on jeans is an "unusual", discriminating and shocking decision. "It's a very sensitive issue - says Kamala Chandrakirana, head of the Indonesian Commission against violence against women - I think such uncommon matter should be tackled by the country’s  president " The activist said the bill- announced to the press in recent days by Ramli MS, chief of the district of West Aceh - is not just "discriminatory", but it violates basic human rights: "Every woman has the right to wear what she wants”.

The norm on clothing is still being considered by the local parliament and, if approved, would come into force since January 2010. Local sources in Aceh stress that the authorities have prepared more than 7 thousand "large" skirts (covering women to their feet) to be used during "instant raid" to force women to change their clothes if they appear in public with clothes considered "too sexy" . Measures will also be imposed on men who circulate in public with "sexy shorts”, or short trousers that show legs and other "shapes". "The Law - adds the source - refers only to the Muslims of Aceh”, one of the provinces of the country where Islam is applied in a strict manner. A few weeks ago, the local government had proposed stoning for adulterers and corporal punishment for those violating the Shariah.

AsiaNews questioned some residents of the province about the move and a consensus emerged against the entry into force of the law, which also provokes some amusement. "It's really stupid," says one woman, who then states: "Suits and dresses are a personal choice that every man and woman should be free to make without compulsion." Many urge the government to "think of something else" instead of "provoking people to indignation” with similar laws. Someone voices the doubt about "special funds" allocated to gather more of 7 thousand items of clothing and then asks: "Where does the money come from?". Moreover, it confirms that for the majority of the people, jeans are "more comfortable" for travel aboard motorcycles. Others say that Islam should not compel the faithful to "live under a constant moral pressure", but should be "the exact opposite."

The head of the Aceh district will not comment on the story. The capital, however, sympathizes with the people of Aceh and many say they are "outraged" by the proposed law. Some initially joke about it, advising governors to "make people wear astronaut suits", only to add: "There are far more important issues that need to be dealt with than sexy clothes".

 

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