Governments have no right to control the domain of morality and should not create and enforce laws that control the way people dress, according to a researcher at human rights watchdog group Setara Institute.
When the city administration of Tasikmalaya in West Java decided to require all Muslim women, residents and visitors alike, to wear veils to enforce its sharia ordinance, Setara Institute researcher Ismail Hasani said that officials were violating civil rights.
“Opinions on clothing are relative. Even among people of the Islamic faith, there are radically different interpretations on how a Muslim should dress. As such, the way people dress is in the domains of morality. It is not something the law should enforce,” Ismail told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Besides targeting Muslim women, the 2009 Tasikmalaya administration’s ordinance on Islamic-based values of community life also mandates that all adult Muslims have to cover their aurat, or private parts of the body that must be covered in Islam.
These sorts of laws that Tasikmalaya administrators wished to enforce were at odds with basic constitutional laws that guarantee freedom of religious expression, Ismail said, and should be evaluated by higher authorities.
Ismail referred to Law No. 32/2004 on regional governance as one way to challenge regional laws that may conflict with human rights. This law, he says, stipulates that the Home Ministry has 30 days after a regional law is released to evaluate whether or not that law conflicts with the constitution or central government laws.
If they do violate any of these, a presidential order can be sent to cancel such laws.
“But after 30 days, if the government doesn’t take any action, those who feel that their rights are being violated by certain laws can go to the Supreme Court to demand a judicial review for the laws in question,” Ismail said. (png/iwa)