The implementation of Islamic Shariah law in Aceh has again drawn criticism by those who say its implementation is heavily discriminatory toward women.
Sparking the latest outcry, a 16-year-old girl reportedly committed suicide this week after she was accused of prostitution and arrested by Aceh’s Shariah police.
The girl and her friends were watching a concert when she and one of her friends were arrested by officers of the Shariah police, known locally as Wilayatul Hisbah, in Langsa, Aceh, on Monday. The officers accused the two of being prostitutes based on how they were dressed.
“The arrest process, which is done publicly, will certainly make people feel humiliated,” Feri Kusuma of the Commission on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said at a press conference on Thursday.
He added that women who failed to wear conservative Islamic garb in Aceh were often arrested violently, with that violence creating a culture of fear.
Dian Novita, of the Mahardhika National Committee for Women, acknowledged Aceh’s special autonomy status, but urged the provincial administration to comply with Indonesian law, especially in matters related to human rights.
Under the morality-based Shariah code, those deemed in violation of Shariah law are often humiliated during the arrest process.
Dian said the suicide case should serve as a wake-up call for the Aceh administration to review its handling of those detained for Shariah violations, especially those cases involving minors.
“There are many cases of people wrongly arrested for how they dress, accused of prostitution. The process of [arrest] is incorrect, given there is no room for a child to communicate with the parents,” she said.
Kontras called on officials to revise the policy to prevent future tragedies.
“We have to continue gaining public support for the push for the policy to be revised in Aceh,” Feri said.
Kontras also criticized the broader implementation of Shariah law, which the commission said was only applied to civilians while police and military officers in violation of its dictates were only processed based on the Criminal Code.
(An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Dian Novita as being from the National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan. We have corrected the error.)