A strict Islamic area of Indonesia yesterday banned Muslim women from wearing clothes, such as tight jeans, trousers and skirts. The authorities on Aceh province on northern Sumatra island have stockpiled thousands of long skirts to cover up any of its women caught breaking the hardline ban.Almost all Aceh’s 850,000 odd women wear the jilbab, or headscarf, but many also follow the Indonesian fashion for tight jeans, even if they wear them under a tunic.
During raids yesterday, when the ban started, Islamic police caught 18 women riding motorbikes - the mostly Muslim nations’ most used transport - who were wearing traditional headscarves but also had jeans on. Each woman was given a long skirt and her trousers were confiscated. They were released from police custody after giving their identities and being given ‘advice’ from Islamic preachers."I am not wearing sexy outfits, but they caught me like a terrorist only because of my jeans," Imma, a 40-year-old housewife who uses only one name, told Associated Press news agency. She said jeans are more comfortable when she travels by motorbike.''Obviously, there is a problem with sexy dressing,’’ said Ramli Mansur, head of West Aceh district. "We don't enforce it for non-Muslims, but are asking them to respect us." ''We see that rapes take place in big cities where free access is allowed between different sexes. Here the economy is small and we don't want it to be like that.''He said warned shopkeepers that if they are caught violating restrictions on selling short skirts and jeans, they face losing their business licenses.
The new law does not set out a specific punishment for the women who break it, but says "moral sanctions" will be imposed by local leaders. Rights groups say the ban violates international treaties and the Indonesian constitution. ''A lot of our friends go to Medan [in nearby north Sumatra] so they can wear tight jeans,'' said one waitress. ''You can't even wear jeans under your skirt here. We are very confused about these regulations,'' she told The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. But a middle-aged woman told the paper: ''I really agree because teenagers today are very stubborn. They don't follow advice from parents and this program helps.''
Islamic law is not enforced across Indonesia. But some more traditional governments have enforced bans on drinking alcohol, gambling and kissing in public, among other activities. Most Indonesians are against restrictions on dress and behaviour, according to opinion polls.