Miniskirts get Indonesia's MPs hot under the collar

Government bids to outlaw 'provocative' clothes in largest Muslim country

Jakarta

In the Ramayana department store in Koja, a densely populated district of north Jakarta, four sales assistants swap gossip as they tidy a display of men's shirts. All are wearing tight, black miniskirts, teamed with burnt orange tunics and high heels.

If a new anti-pornography taskforce has its way, Ramayana will be forced to redesign its staff uniform and millions of Indonesian women will have to restyle their wardrobes. Its head, the Religious Affairs Minister, Suryadharma Ali, recently declared miniskirts beyond the pale, and likely to be outlawed.

That followed a threat by Indonesia's parliamentary speaker, Marzuki Alie, to ban female politicians from wearing short skirts, because "there have been a lot of rape cases and other immoral acts recently, because women aren't wearing appropriate clothes". He added: "You know what men are like. Provocative clothing will make them do things."

The proposed ban, denounced by women's groups and human rights organisations, has highlighted tensions between conservatives and liberals in the world's most populous Muslim country. The taskforce was set up by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to implement a tough anti-pornography law drafted by Islamic parties. Although widely condemned, the law has been used in high-profile prosecutions, one of which led to the jailing last year of a pop star, Nazriel "Ariel" Irham, for making two sex tapes which found their way on to the internet.

Opposition politicians accuse Mr Yudhoyono of trying to distract attention from a corruption scandal gripping his Democratic Party, and from a plan to raise fuel prices – temporarily shelved following protests.

In the Jakarta offices of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, Nurherwati sighs when asked about the hemline row. "Totally ridiculous," she says. As for the pornography law: "It's supposed to protect women, but it actually criminalises them."

Nurherwati, a commissioner, gives the example of a striptease dancer in Bandung, West Java, who was prosecuted under the law although she was a trafficking victim. When women report sexual assaults, she says, "the first thing police ask is, 'What did you do to get raped?'"

Among ordinary Indonesians, opinions about a miniskirt ban are divided; not surprisingly, in a country where women wear everything from cut-off shorts and tank tops to hijabs (Muslim headscarves) and abayas (long robes).

Izzah Inzlamiyah, who works for an American-based labour rights NGO, Solidarity Center, says: "Politicians seem to think their only job is to regulate the skirt length, rather than doing things that are really important, like improving education and creating economic opportunities. Men can wear whatever they want; why can't women?"

However, Rani, 39, who was rifling through a discount bin in Ramayana, said: "A miniskirt in the house or at the swimming pool is OK, but in the street it's not good."

Critics point to the sprawling archipelago's regional and cultural variations. In Papua, for instance, women routinely bare their breasts. In Aceh, which has adopted Sharia law, headscarves are compulsory.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices Simon Usborne: It's not about political correctness. It's about decency
Sport
Wojciech Szczesny watches the ball cross the line as Garath McCleary scores for Reading
football All the latest from Wembley as Gunners face Reading in semi-final
Life and Style
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...