The city of Lhokseumawe in Aceh, Indonesia has begun trialling a law that prohibits women straddling a motorcycle if the rider up front is male, claiming that the practice violates certain Islamic values. Instead, a female must ride ‘side-straddle’ with both legs on one side of the bike.
Suaidi Yahya, the mayor of Lhokseumawe, said the law has been introduced in order to save people’s “morals and behaviours, the BBC reported. “When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man. But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman,” Yahya explained, adding that those who side-saddle rarely fall off.
Women are still allowed to ride motorcycles but only in the appropriate Muslim attire.
The new law will be tested for a month, after which it could be permanently introduced with punishment for those who disobey likely to be severe. This is, after all, a place where wearing tight trousers is an offence punishable by having to wear a government-issue skirt and having your clothes cut up, where adulterers are stoned to death, where gamblers are caned and where theft is punishable by amputation.
As you would expect, the law has caused a backlash among Muslim activists, such as Ulil Abshar Abdalla, who have criticised the logic.
“How to ride a motorbike is not regulated in Sharia. There is no mention of it in the Koran or Hadiths. In a democratic country, what is claimed to be, Sharia must be assessed by the public’s common sense if the government aims to turn the regulation into law,” Abshar Abdalla said via his Twitter account.
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that follows Sharia, a moral and religious code based on Islamic teachings and a legal framework that governs all aspects of Muslim life. Sharia is often associated with radical Islam and extremism.