The Jakarta Post
Women activists in Aceh consider the latest sharia regulations banning unmarried men and women from riding together on motorcycles and separating female and male students in high schools in North Aceh to be unnecessary.
Acehnese activist Samsidar said the separation of female students from male students was an idea that was based only on the thoughts of men.
'This is a policy that is not important for the development of education in Aceh,' said Samsidar, who is also a former member of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan).
She said such a separation was not a guarantee that education in Aceh would move in a better direction compared to other regions in Indonesia.
'It would've been better for the administration to issue a regulation siding with economically poor people having no access to education to be able to enjoy education,' Samsidar said.
North Aceh is one of the regencies in Aceh with a high concentration of poor families. Many families in the regency cannot afford school fees for their children.
Samsidar also said that although Aceh had long been known as a populous Muslim region, never in its history had male students been separated from female students when they were studying in class.
'Such separation only applies in Islamic boarding schools, which implement such a regulation,'
She expressed hope that the North Aceh administration would think twice before issuing the regulation as it would have a bad influence on the education of young Acehnese.
She argued that student competitiveness would lessen because of the separation. This would influence existing teaching procedures.
The North Aceh regency administration also banned unmarried couples from riding together on motorcycles, banned women from dancing in public and from straddling motorcycles.
'There are some clauses banning women from dancing in front of men because doing so could incite negative perceptions and sometimes trigger sexual arousal,' said the head of the North Aceh Legislative Council legislation agency, Tgk Fauzan Hamzah.
North Aceh Ulema Consultative Council head Abu Mustafa Ahmad Paloh Gadeng said the regulation banning unmarried couples from riding motorcycles together was urgent because relationships between young people in the regions had reached an alert level.
'We see it as important because many of the activities and relationships among our young people are deviating from Islamic teachings,' he said.
Based on Islamic teachings, he said, it was clear that unmarried couples could not sit together on motorcycles. 'It is clear that sitting together on a motorbike for them is violating Islamic teaching,' he added.
Others, however, saw the qanun (bylaw) banning unmarried couples from riding on motorcycles together as a hindrance.
'There will be limitations and difficulties that women in Aceh have to deal with because of the regulation,' Acehnese university student Nurul Aminah said.
She argued that not every woman could ride a motorcycle, so sometimes needed get on a bike with a man driving.
'The regulation will restrict women's movements and their means of expression,' Nurul said.
Other subjects regulated include raising animals such as dogs (unclean according to Islamic teaching), managing entertainment centers and controlling the movements of teenagers in the evenings.
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