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NewsGirls & Women

Indonesian Restaurant Law Bans Women and Men Eating Together

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Sexism and gender discrimination stop women from making their own decisions around the world. This Indonesia district's new law is just one example of how governments control women. You can join us in urging leaders to step up for women’s rights here

If you’re a woman in Indonesia’s Bireuën district, grabbing a bite to eat with a male colleague is out of the question. 

The religiously conservative district in the Islamic province of Aceh issued a letter to food businesses on Aug. 30, reinforcing a 2016 ban. Under the law, women and men can’t dine together in public — unless they’re married or related, that is.

What’s the reason behind the strict regulation? To ensure they’re “more well-behaved,” according to the Guardian.

"The objective is to protect women’s dignity so they will feel more comfortable, more at ease, more well-behaved and will not do anything that violates sharia (Islamic law)," Jufliwan, head of Bireuën district’s Islamic affairs office, told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.   

Take Action: Urge Leaders to Step Up for Women’s Rights and Health

Women’s rights are constantly under attack across Indonesia, where child marriage is extremely common. And Aceh isn’t only monitoring who women sit at the same table with in Bireuën. In early August, a reminder went out to restaurants and cafes demanding they stop serving women unchaperoned by a male family member at 9 p.m. 

The curfew was first rolled out in 2016 under the same initial push to surveil restaurant spaces, which included instructing management not to hire LGBTQ servers. The only region in Indonesia that enforces Islamic law on Muslim and non-Muslim citizens alike, Aceh has been on a mission to tighten laws surrounding where women should and shouldn’t go for quite some time. 

Related Stories Aug. 30, 2017 Thomson Reuters Foundation This 13-Year-Old Stopped Her Own Child Marriage, and Is Helping Others to Do the Same

In 2015, the province’s capital, Banda Aceh, stopped allowing women in entertainment venues including coffee shops and sports halls past 11 p.m. Even sitting on motorbikes the way passengers are intended to — straddling the driver — became illegal in 2013 in Lhokseumawe city, where women were ordered to sit sideways to hide their curves.

Indonesia’s religiously conservative laws infringe on human rights in many ways — homsexuality is also criminalized in the world’s most populated Muslim-majority country.