Govt urged to review sharia-based

The National Commission on Violence Against Women urged the government to review a number of sharia-based bylaws deemed discriminative against women as part of its first 100-days program.

Commission chairwoman Kamala Chandra Kirana told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday such bylaws violated the Constitution, and that the central government was responsible for amending them so they adhered to the Constitution.

"As Indonesians, we are bound by the social contract inscribed in the Constitution, which clearly mentions non-discrimination among its main principles," Kamala said.

"Special or regular *regional* autonomy should not lead to legislation that strays from the basic principles. The central government has a role to safeguard the consistency between national and regional law," she added.

By prioritizing the harmonization of local regulations with those at the national level, the new government could include the reviewing of discriminative bylaws into the program, Kamala suggested.

The most dramatic of such bylaws, she said, is the Islamic criminal code bylaw passed in September by Aceh's legislative council, which introduced stoning and caning as punishment for adulterous acts.

"The punishments have never appeared in national law and are actually controversial in Aceh itself. But it was still endorsed because there are many political interests involved," she said.

Other discriminatory bylaws, Kamala added, are those enforcing the mandatory wearing of headscarves for female Muslim civil servants, which have taken effect in 16 regencies and municipalities in seven provinces: Aceh, Banten, West Java, Central Java, South Kalimantan, West Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi.

Only in Aceh is the headscarf bylaw applied at the provincial level, while there have been discussions to apply the policy in West Sumatra and South Sulawesi, Kamala added.

"Although non-Muslim female civil servants are not obliged *to wear headscarves* , they face huge pressure and are convinced they would face obstacles to career advancement *should they not conform by wearing headscarves*," she said.

Kamala said several institutions at the central level could do act on the controversial bylaws.

She said the Home Ministry could review drafts of the bylaws before approving them, while the Supreme Court could revoke them if they were already issued.

"The Constitutional Court is a mechanism to review discriminatory laws at the national level, and the Justice and Human Rights Ministry has the duty to harmonize all regulations and policies issued in the country," Kamala said.

"We should ask the government what exactly they would do during the first 100 days to ensure all legal regulations that are discriminatory and violate the Constitution are eliminated," she added.

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