This article has been written by IPSITA ROUT, 4th Year, KIIT SCHOOL OF LAW and curated by Nandita Mishra, Chanakya National Law University, Patna


In a report released on 18th march, Human Rights Watch reported that dress codes for women and girls in Indonesia discriminate against students, civil servants, and visitors to government offices and should be repealed. The government should thoroughly enact a decree released in February 2021 that forbids abusive dress codes for female students and teachers in Indonesian public schools, as well as take additional legislative action to eradicate sexism against women and children.


Local governments and school principals were expected to abolish all obligatory jilbab legislation under the new decree. Since March 5, the legislation has been in force. According to the news, any local authority head or school principal who did not comply by March 25 will face penalties. The government should fully implement a decree issued in February 2021 that prohibits abusive dress codes for female students and teachers in Indonesian public schools, as well as take additional legal measures to eliminate discrimination against women and girls.

At least 60 laws and regulations discriminating on the basis of dress code have been enacted at the national, state, and provincial levels in the Asian country since 2001. The “dress code,” according to human rights campaigners and non-governmental groups, is a sign of growing religious bigotry and conservative attitudes in a world that, at least officially, acknowledges six religions (including Catholicism), but where Sunni Muslims make up more than 85 percent of the population.

Since the national government introduced school uniform regulations in 2014, “many regencies and provinces interpreted [the suggestion that a jilbab should be worn] as mandatory, so you had the circumstance where local education officers and public schools began to amend the school rules and to enforce the jilbab (hijab) as part of the school uniforms,” according to Elaine Pearson, the Australia diaspora coordinator. This was particularly true in more conservative areas like West Sumatra and Central Java, where non-Muslims were subjected to the same dress code as Muslims. Aceh, Indonesia’s only province where Sharia, or Islamic law, is applied, is no exception.




According to the National Commission on Violence Against Women, 32 regencies and provinces throughout the archipelago now mandate girls and women to wear jilbabs (hijabs) in public schools, government offices, and other public spaces. For a law that isn’t meant to be binding, young women have been humiliated by getting their hair shaved, being suspended from colleges, being penalized, or being dismissed from their careers.

According to the HRW article, a new decree banning public schools in the Muslim-majority world from imposing religion-based dress codes – such as headscarves and long skirts – prohibits Islamic schools and women serving in the civil service and government offices. “In many parts of Indonesia, women and girls have faced unparalleled legal and social demands to wear clothing considered Islamic over the past two decades as part of wider attempts to enforce Sharia rules,” according to the study. According to the study “‘I Wanted to Run Away’: Abusive Dress Codes for Women and Girls in Indonesia,” “these tensions have risen considerably in recent years.”


Only state schools managed by local councils and the Ministry of Education and Culture are covered by the decree. It has little effect on the Religious Affairs Ministry’s Islamic state schools and universities. It also excludes Aceh province, which has more autonomy than the other provinces due to a special agreement and is the only province that formally observes Sharia, or Islamic rule. International human rights legislation respects people’s rights to openly share their religious views, freedom of speech, and fair access to education. Women have the same privileges as men, including the freedom to dress anything they choose. Any restrictions on these rights must be justified and enforced in a nondiscriminatory and non arbitrary way. Mandatory jilbab statutes, such as those in Aceh, also jeopardize girls’ and women’s fundamental rights to be free “from unfair treatment based on any grounds whatsoever.” Since the Indonesian government introduced a Muslim dress code in 2001, there has been systematic bullying against girls and women who do not follow it. Because of the constant requirement to dress like Muslim women, girls have been expelled or expelled from school, and female employees have lost or given up their jobs as a result of noncompliance. They have also endured psychological trauma as a result of the pressures to adapt. This practice is a death of freedom as a decision to represent is synonymous to one’s identity. In the coming years, this decree will lead to violence and break the society in pieces.



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