JAKARTA, Indonesia – A senior official in Indonesia's most influential Islamic organisation says "straddling" when riding a motorcycle should not be regulated formally in local legislation, as is being proposed in a town in Aceh province, local media reported Tuesday (January 8th).
"Maybe straddling is inappropriate, but it is unnecessary to be regulated formally unless it's been disturbing the public interest," Syamsul Maarif, the Jakarta Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ilama Indonesia/MUI), said Monday.
MUI chairman Maruf Amin, however, appeared to differ with Maarif. "I think it is a good regulation, because women straddling motorcycles is not good," multiple media reports quoted him as saying.
The issue arose after the mayor of Lhokseumawe announced new rules requiring women passengers to sit side-saddle, out of deference to Sharia law.
Local women's rights activists have rejected the proposed ban, citing safety concerns. "Sitting astride guarantees better safety, and I'm sure most people can only side-saddle for 15 minutes," said Roslina Rasyid of the Indonesian Women's Association for Justice chapter in Lhokseumawe.
"What if the person is overweight and causes an imbalance? It could cause an accident," she added.
National Commission on Violence Against Women activist Andy Yentriyani, meanwhile, described the proposed bylaw as "part of discriminative policies on women in this country in the name of religion and morality".