Bowing to pressure from Muslim groups, politicians and rights activists, the National Police is set to revoke an internal regulation that bans female officers from wearing the Muslim headscarf or hijab.
National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said that a team led by the National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo was working on a draft regulation that would allow female members of the corps to wear the hijab while on duty.
“We could revise the existing regulation [on the ban] or issue a new regulation to accommodate the rights of female officers to wear the hijab,” Boy said, referring to a 2005 decree by the National Police chief that ordered all members of the corps to wear only official uniform items and specifically prohibited female officers from wearing the hijab.
The decree, however, excludes female members of the corps in Aceh due to the province’s 2011 sharia-inspired bylaws that oblige all women to cover their hair.
The police have been under pressure since earlier this month as Muslim and human rights groups called on the National Police to review its regulation banning female officers from wearing the hijab, a move deemed essential to restore justice and religious freedom.
Critics of the ban, including Muslim cleric Amidhan Shaberah of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) cited the ban as a sign of the repressive nature of the police institution.
Although supporters of the ban have argued that the hijab could compromise female officers’ duties, particularly during conflicts involving different faith groups, human rights campaigners including the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and Imparsial have slammed the ban, saying that it violates basic human rights.
Earlier on Tuesday, Timur told the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing law and human rights that the police would seriously consider the criticisms, including those from Commission III lawmakers.
“We don’t prohibit [plain clothes or off-duty] female officers from wearing the hijab. But, there is a regulation that needs to be followed. Nevertheless, we welcome all suggestions regarding the ban, including from respected figures. We will definitely use them as input in our evaluation of the regulation,” Timur said in response to lawmakers.
In the hearing, lawmakers criticized Timur for maintaining the ban, which was first imposed during the tenure of Gen. Sutanto in 2005.
Several commission members wanted Timur to include the hijab as part of the National Police’s
“Female members of the corps in Aceh wear the hijab, so why not allow female officers in other parts of the country? There is no acceptable reason to prohibit them following the example of their colleagues in Aceh. So, I strongly urge you to revise the regulation,” said Ahmad Yani, a United Development Party (PPP) lawmaker.
Fellow Commission III member Taslim from the National Mandate Party (PAN) said the ban could offend the majority Muslim community in the country.
“Wearing the hijab is part of religious freedom. Therefore, I hope that National Police officers will not make policies that are offensive to Muslims in the country,” he said.