Going sidesaddle in Lhokseumawe


The central government may step in to stop a city in Aceh province from prohibiting women from wearing pants and “straddling” motorbikes or bicycles, requiring women to instead ride two-wheel vehicles “sidesaddle.”

The mayor of the town of Lhokseumawe told the Jakarta Globe earlier this week that the town planned to submit the new rule because “we’ve seen that people’s behaviors and morals are getting far from Aceh’s Islamic cultural values.”

“We want to save women from things that will cause them to violate Shariah law. We wish to honor women with this ban, because they are delicate creatures,” the Globe quoted Mayor Suaidi Yahy.

Home Affairs Ministry spokesman Reydonnyzar Moenek told CNN “the proposed regulations need to be clarified and evaluated by the Home Affairs Minister before the local government can issue it as a decree.”

“There have been criticisms that the proposed decree is discriminatory and has a gender bias,” said Reydonnyzar. However, he added that local regulations, particularly for Aceh — which has a special autonomy status — need to reflect the local culture, traditions and aspirations of citizens.

The ministry will wait for the Lhokseumawe authorities to submit the draft for consideration, the spokesman said. The ministry can repeal local regulations.

In 2012, Jakarta identified 173 local regulations that were contradictory to national laws and interests, the ministry spokesperson said. Some were Shariah-based laws; others were regulations considered unfavorable towards investment and business.