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
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
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: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable