In the name of honoring women, the mayor of Lhokseumawe, in Aceh, Indonesia, recently announced he would prohibit them from straddling motorcycles or bicycles when given a ride. It’s in the best interests of women to ride sidesaddle, Suaidi Yahya told the Jakarta Globe, because when they ride with their legs open they are prone to break Shari‘a law:
“We’ve seen that people’s behaviors and morals are getting far from Aceh’s Islamic cultural values. Therefore we will issue a regulation that will ban women from straddling while sitting on the passenger’s seat of motorcycles.
“We want to save women from things that will cause them to violate Shariah law. We wish to honor women with this ban, because they are delicate creatures.”
“When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man. But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman,” Suaidi added.
Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, but Aceh is the only province that enforces Shari‘a, prohibiting — among other things — gambling, homosexuality and alcohol consumption, the BBC reports.
Alarmed by the ban, Indonesia’s central government said it is considering whether to intervene and has meanwhile called for the ban to be further clarified and evaluated. Rights groups have also protested, calling the ban useless and inconvenient, according to CNN.
This is not the first time Shari‘a in Aceh has caused uproar. A 2009 regulation banned women from wearing jeans and tight trousers. In 2011, police rounded up a group of teenagers sporting mohawks and other unconventional hairstyles, accused them of being “punks” and shaved off their hair.