Indonesian City Seeks To Ban Women From Straddling Motorbikes

The Indonesian city of Lhokseumawe is seeking to impose a bylaw which would ban women from straddling motorbikes.

Officials from the city, located in Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra, have proposed the bylaw much to the chagrin of critics. The ban would disallow females the use of a straddle position when riding a motorbike as well as banning them from holding onto the driver for support.

Those against the saddle ban have voiced concerns that the measure, proposed in the name of religion, is discriminatory and would compromise women’s safety. Aceh is currently the only province in Indonesia that practices strict enforcement of Shariah, Islamic law.

An article by Voice of America writes that Suaidi Yahya, mayor of Lhokseumawe, supports the saddle ban on the basis of a decline in local morality. The mayor has also voiced that he feels it is “impolite” and “improper” for a female to spread her legs in order to straddle a motorbike. His sentiments are echoed by religious leaders who support the proposed bylaw.

Women’s advocacy groups have voiced outrage at what they deem to be a ridiculous local law that unfairly discriminates against the female gender. They are encouraging women to ignore the saddle ban in protest. Affan Ramli, a spokesperson for the Care for Shariah Civil Society Network, spoke Friday about the ban:

“We’re encouraging citizens in Lhokseumawe not to heed this call, to teach the local government a lesson in drafting fairer laws.”

The 2002 implementation and enforcement of Islamic law in Aceh has led to moral bans involving adultery, gambling, and alcohol use. Women are required to be accompanied by a relative when appearing in public at night and are prohibited from wearing particular types of clothing.

The New York Times writes that while local authorities have the power to implement such bylaws, they can be overturned by the national government. Officials in the Indonesian Home Affairs Ministry have referred to the saddle ban as discriminatory.

Zudan Arif Fakrulloh, head of the ministry’s bureau of legal affairs, spoke of his distaste for the newest bylaw proposal:

“Laws need to be equal between men and women. Not everything is equal in the culture in Aceh, but there should be equal rights for sitting in this way.”

What do you think about the Indonesian city of Lhokseumawe trying to ban women from straddling motorbikes?