Women in Indonesia’s Lhokseumawe city could soon be banned from “riding” motorcycles as we know it. Lhokseumawe, a city in the province of Aceh, has ordered female pembonceng not to straddle motorbikes behind male riders, the BBC reports. Instead, sitting “side-saddle” on a bike is encouraged.
“When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man. But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman,” said Suaidi Yahya, mayor of Lhokseumawe, who added that the new rule aims to save people’s “morals and behaviours.”
Leaflets have been sent out to government offices and residents to inform them about the regulation. Under it, the mayor says that women passengers are only allowed to sit “side-saddle” because straddling the bike seat violates Islamic values. The local government will be evaluating the regulation in a month, after which it could turn into a by-law, Yahya added.
Not everyone agrees with the new ruling, and one of them is Jakarta-based Muslim activist Ulil Abshar Abdalla. “How to ride a motorbike is not regulated in Sharia. There is no mention of it in the Koran or Hadiths,” he said on his Twitter account, referring to the second most sacred text in Islam after the Quran.
“In a democratic country, what is claimed to be Sharia must be assessed by the public’s common sense if the government aims to turn the regulation into law,” Abdalla added. Aceh is the only province that follows Sharia in the world’s largest Muslim country.