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07/24/2022 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – Despite being constitutionally secular, Indonesia, which is majority Muslim, retains repressive dress codes for women and girls in many provinces. At least 24 of the country’s 34 provinces enforce these regulations, with officials forcing girls who do not comply to leave school and women who refuse to resign from their jobs. 

Human Rights Watch recently published an article examining these regulations, which are inspired by Sharia law, and sharing the responses of Indonesian women and girls. The piece calls on the Indonesian Home Affairs Ministry, which oversees local governments, to invalidate the more than 60 local dress code laws across the country.  

“President Joko Widodo should immediately overturn discriminatory, rights-abusing provincial and local decrees that violate the rights of women and girls,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These decrees do real harm and, as a practical matter, will only be ended by central government action.” 

Three regencies in Indonesia first implemented these discriminatory laws in 2001, and the restrictions spread over the last two decades. Today, millions of girls and women in Indonesia are compelled to wear the hijab, a female headdress covering the hair, neck, and chest, usually combined with a long skirt and a long sleeve shirt.  

There is negative social pressure and threats of sanctions levied on women who object to the regulations.  

In a 2021 report published by Human Rights Watch, bullying and intimidation are common tactics used to force girls and women to wear the hijab. This form of oppression can occur at work or school or even virtually over social media.  

Human Rights Watch said, “nearly 150,000 schools in Indonesia’s 24 Muslim-majority provinces currently enforce mandatory jilbab rules, based on both local and national regulations. In some conservative Muslim areas such as Aceh and West Sumatra, even non-Muslim girls have also been forced to wear the hijab.” 

Please pray for religious freedom in Indonesia.

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