The National Commission on Violence Against Women says the number of bylaws in Indonesia that discriminate against women is increasing, but the Home Affairs Ministry spokesman said on Friday that it was all a matter of perspective.
The commission, known as Komnas Perempuan, said on Thursday that it found 282 bylaws that discriminate against women in 100 districts and cities in 28 provinces across Indonesia. Among them are bylaws that prohibit women from dressing in certain ways and going out late at night. Last year, the commission found 189 such discriminatory laws.
The commission said West Java and West Sumatra were among the provinces that issued the most number of discriminatory bylaws. West Sumatra, it said, has 33 such bylaws.
But Reydonnyzar Monoek, the spokesman of the Home Affairs Ministry, which has the authority to review and revoke bylaws, said he doubted the number was that high.
“Let us sit together and try to understand the substance of the bylaws so that we can have the same perspective,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
“For instance, can you really say that a bylaw prohibiting women from going out at night in Tangerang, excluding factory workers who have to work the late shift, is discriminatory? It’s being made to sound like it’s restricting women, but it’s actually protecting them from crime.”
He said he also saw nothing wrong with a bylaw in Tasikmalaya, West Java, that obliged Muslim women to wear a hijab in the city.
“It’s only mandatory for Muslims, not for Christians,” Reydonnyzar said. “Tasikmalaya residents are religious people.”
The spokesman added that people should realize that men and women were created with different rights and obligations.
“In the context of cultural values, though dressing is a personal matter, there are norms to be followed in the public space,” he said.
“Besides, before a bylaw is passed, there’s a period of public consultation,” he said. “Where were those civil society organizations during that period? Why are they protesting now?”
Komnas Perempuan deputy chairman Masruchah said the ministry spokesman did not know what he was talking about.
“The way government protects women should not be discriminatory,” she told the Globe on Friday. “Do you think a single woman who’s sick in the middle of the night should have to consult with the government first before going out to visit a hospital? And it should be understood that not every Muslim woman wants to wear a hijab. The government should not enforce religious obligations.”
Masruchah said that instead of limiting women’s rights, the government should think of ways to prevent crime.
“They should instead assign more police officers at night, install more street lights and educate people about gender awareness,” she said.
She added that the commission has actually been coordinating with the government and has created a team to address the issue, including with the legal division of the Home Affairs Ministry.