By: Sarah Merry
Pace International Law Review, Articles Editor
Nearly 20 Muslim women in Meulaboh, Indonesia were recently asked to hand over their pants during a traffic checkpoint set up to enforce a new Islamic bylaw that bans Muslim women from wearing tight, figure hugging clothing. Meulaboh, the district capital of Aceh, the only Indonesian province allowed to apply Islamic, or Sharia, law will continue to conduct traffic stops and raids in an effort to implement and enforce the new law.
Ramli Mansur, the district chief of West Aceh has provided the government with some 20,000 skirts to be provided to those women found violating the law. Violators will be immediately stripped of the illegal clothing and provided an appropriate, government issued skirt. Mansur has reportedly said that he is taking such measures because he will one day have to answer to God about what he did to enforce such laws.
Jeans and tight clothing have not been seen on display by merchants as the regulation also bans merchants from selling tight clothing. Those in violation of the ban face losing their business license. Women are apparently allowed to wear pants, but the pants must be loose, cover the ankle, and be worn under loose, long skirts. The law also reportedly bans men from wearing shorts, yet there appears to be no reports of the government handing out suitable clothing for such law breakers.
The new law follows in the footsteps of a number of conservative bans and laws recently passed in the Aceh region. This past September Aceh’s government passed a law making adultery punishable by stoning to death. The same law also imposes harsh punishments for rape and homosexuality, and for violations of the bans on gambling, alcohol consumption, and kissing in public.
The new law has been criticized for its vagueness, specifically for mandating that women refrain from wearing anything “too attractive,” and for failing to state a specific punishment, listing “moral sanctions” as the punishment for law breakers. Mansur, however, has stated that women found violating the law more than three times may face two weeks in detention.
Proponents of the law support the law based on the words of Allah, who stated that every women should keep all parts of her body that should not be shown under Islamic law, covered.