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Indonesia: Province Drafts Regulation Banning Provocative Clothing

(Dec. 28, 2017) Bengkulu Province, located on the southwestern coast of the large Indonesian island of Sumatra, is considering adopting regional legislation on the protection of women and children that includes rules on proper dress. As now being drafted by the Provincial Legislative Council, the regulation would ban the wearing of “sexy clothing” in public. The legislature will begin deliberations next year, following the completion of the drafting process. (Bengkulu Drafts ‘Dress Code’ Bylaw to Curb Sexual Violence, JAKARTA POST (Dec. 20, 2017).)

According to the head of the legislative commission on health and education for the province, Muharamin, who spoke on December 19, 2017, the impetus for the new regulation “comes from concerns over sexual violence and rape against women and children in Bengkulu. This is one of our efforts to mitigate such cases.” (Id.) Muharamin noted that the proposed regulation would include a ban on the wearing of provocative clothing, especially by students. Rules would specify that girls’ skirts should not end above the knee and that clothing should not fit tightly. (Id.)

The plan has been criticized by Susi Handayani, the director of a Bengkulu community learning center for women and children. She argued that a dress code alone would not be sufficient protection for children or women. “Boys and girls must also be taught to respect each other,” she noted, adding that “[f]emale health reproduction [sic] must also be given attention.” (Id.)

Bengkulu would not be the only jurisdiction in Indonesia to impose controls on dress. Various other rules have been adopted elsewhere. For example, in two cities, Muslim municipal workers are required on Fridays to follow Islamic dress rules, including the donning of the hijab (head scarf) by women. (Constance Johnson, Indonesia: Cities Require Wearing of Muslim Attire on Fridays, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (May 1, 2013).) Aceh Province, which under regional autonomy rules has imposed Sharia law, has required Muslim women to avoid revealing attire and banned the selling of tightly fitting dresses since 2010. (Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia No. 18, 2001, Otonomi Khusus Bagi Provinsi Daerah Istimewa Aceh Sebagai Provinsi Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam [Law No. 18/2001 on Exclusive Autonomy for the Special Province of Aceh as Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Province], Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat [Indonesian legislature] website); Fakhrurradzie Gade, Indonesia’s Aceh Province Enacts Strict Muslim Women’s Dress Code Law Against “Revealing Clothing,” WUNRN (May 27, 2010); Eve Warburton, No Longer a Choice, INSIDE INDONESIA (July 14, 2007).)