Sunday, June 14, 2015

Indonesia’s Curfew on Women in Aceh


Women in Banda Aceh are now banned from being outside their homes after 11 p.m., with exceptions for those in humanitarian work, such as nurses and medical practitioners, and if they are accompanied by male relatives. The aim of the bylaw, says its first female mayor, Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, is not to discriminate against women, but to protect them against the possibility of sexual harassment and assault.

Officials including Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa have nodded approval, although the National Commission for Violence against Women has disagreed. Commission chairperson Azriana, an activist from Aceh herself, said that what is more urgent in the former war zone is to fight domestic violence — as the home has often proved to be the source of more danger than the streets, regardless of the historic peace agreement in 2005.

Mayor Illiza’s intentions seem to be in the right place, as any woman who has walked down dark streets would agree, but here lie the gaps in the logic that is too often used in “protecting” women: streets should not be dark. The workplace should ensure safety for employees and visitors. Aceh’s bylaw itself regulates the “empowerment and protection of women”, including the protection of women regarding their work. Indonesia’s labor law requires that women be collected or taken home when working between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Although the similar logic to protect women applies, the law does not restrict women’s working hours.

This implies assurance that both male and female citizens should be facilitated with security around the clock while conducting their activities. Some Acehnese have voiced agreement to the new municipal bylaw while others have questioned its urgency. “What’s the guarantee for lesser sexual harassment?” one resident asked on Facebook. Like other Indonesians, women in Aceh are still vulnerable to harassment and assault outside and inside the home, based on available data, despite the law on domestic violence and the ratification of the international convention on discrimination against women. Aceh has every right to issue its own bylaws and, uniquely in Indonesia, bylaws based on sharia.

Aware of women’s high position in Islam, many women had welcomed sharia in Aceh. However the process of issuing bylaws around the nation has come into question, regarding how far different social groups have been consulted. Ask female employees at department stores and they may agree, or disagree, to restrictions on the shifts they are allowed to work on compared to men — given the likely lower income they would receive. True, smaller towns compared to Jakarta may not need late-night shifts for women. However, regulations cannot be based on crude assumptions, especially when authorities have not pinpointed the source of harassment and violence against women. It is simpler indeed to restrict women, but it is neither “empowering” nor “protecting” anyone when policies do not address the attitude that females are “natural” objects of attack just because they are on their own. - See more at: http://www.thejakartapost.

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