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Indonesia’s Aceh sets partial curfew for women

Aceh officials imposed a partial curfew for women, saying it will reduce sexual violence; critics call it discriminatory

The capital of Indonesia's Aceh province has imposed a partial curfew for women that it says will reduce sexual violence but which critics say is discriminatory.

Internet cafes, tourist sites, sports facilities and entertainment venues have been instructed to refuse service to women after 11 p.m. unless they are accompanied by a husband or male family member.

Women will also be barred from working in those businesses after during curfew.

Banda Aceh mayor Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal Djamal said employing women late at night constitutes exploitation and makes them vulnerable to sexual harassment.

"We have studied the matter thoroughly and this is in line with the labor laws," Djamal said. "Our aim is to protect women employees, especially those working at entertainment spots."

Women who break the rules are to be reprimanded but businesses employing female workers after the curfew risk losing their license.

The directive also prohibits unaccompanied children from being in public places after 10 p.m.

The conservative province of Aceh is the only one of Indonesia's 34 provinces to impose Islamic law in the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world.

The chief of Indonesia's national commission for violence against women said the measure would only restrict women's freedom and threaten their livelihoods.

"The government should stop meddling in women's affairs," said Azriana, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

"If the intention of the Aceh government is to provide protection for women, it must instead educate the public and men to respect women or provide security at the nightspots."

Azriana said the regulation would likely see Aceh's morality police nabbing any women out after 11 p.m. and not just those in specific sectors.

Ninik Rahayu from the Indonesian Institute for Empowerment of Women and Children said that the directive is discriminatory and contrary to Indonesia's constitution. She also said the policy shows the inability of the local government to provide adequate protection for residents.

The decision comes a month after unmarried men and women were banned from riding together on a motorbike in one of Aceh's districts.

Under 2013 legislation, female passengers behind a male driver were forbidden to straddle motorbikes and required to ride sidesaddle.

Indonesia's secular central government granted Aceh the right to implement a version of Sharia in 2006 as part of a peace deal to end a separatist war. A religious police and court system have been established and the new restrictions on women further strengthen Sharia in the province.

Last year, Aceh lawmakers passed a law that punishes gay sex by public caning and subjects non-Muslims to strict interpretation of Sharia. People convicted of gambling, adultery and drinking alcohol already face caning, as do women wearing tight jeans and people who skip Friday prayers.

Al Jazeera with wire services

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