Banda Aceh. The plan by the administration of the Aceh town of Lhokseumawe to issue a regulation that will ban female passengers from straddling motor bikes has sparked widespread criticism.
“We, the women of Lhokseumawe, strongly oppose this very discriminative regulation because it ignores the rights of women in conducting their daily activities,” Safwani, the executive director of Ranup Women Institute, said in Lhokseumawe.
She stated that as a woman, she felt more comfortable straddling the motorcycle while a passenger and added that there were much more urgent matters demanding the mayor’s attention, such as garbage disposal in the city.
“When you think of it, the cleanliness of the city is also in line with Islamic Shariah,” she said.
Other priorities, such as preventing livestock from walking city streets at will, making the chaotic market place more orderly and overcoming the dust that dirties the city during the dry season, should be dealt with first, according to Safwani.
She said that authorities should improve health and education services before issuing “sensational” regulations that could potentially boomerang on the mayor.
Meanwhile, Destika Gilang Lestari, a coordinator for the Commission for the Disappearance and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that the mayor should accord more attention to the victims of conflicts in the region than to how female motorcycle passengers should sit.
She noted that Lhokseumawe is a region in which problems arising from armed conflict continue to fester and negatively affect citizens living there.
“Why bother on such matters? The mayor should focus on the victims of these conflicts who still need the attention of the government,” Destika said in a press conference.
The Kontras coordinator added that alleviating poverty and raising the welfare of the people should take priority over trivialities such as straddling motorcycles.
Lhokseumawe Mayor Suaidi Yahya earlier said that he was set to issue the regulation to “save women from things that will cause them to violate Shariah law.”
Suaidi said his administration on Wednesday started distributing handouts to government offices and villages throughout the municipality to inform local residents of the new policy before the plan is formally implemented in a few months.
Although he said that sanctions awaited violators, he gave no details.
Suaidi claimed that the plan is supported by various groups, including local ulemas.