New regulations prohibit cafés serving women after 9pm or without male guardians in Aceh regency

A circular outlining new sharia-based regulations for cafés in the Bireuen Regency of Aceh. Photo: Twitter/@raikala
A circular outlining new sharia-based regulations for cafés in the Bireuen Regency of Aceh. Photo: Twitter/@raikala

In Aceh, the only province in Indonesia allowed to implement Islamic sharia based laws, women have often become victims of discrimination in the name of religion. That continues to be the case in the Bireuen Regency of Aceh, which recently passed a number of new regulation for cafés operating in the area.

A circular, signed by Bireuen Regent Saifannur on August 30, has spread online detailing 14 new rules enforcing Islamic morality ‘standardization’ on cafés and in the regency.

Two of the rules, points 7 and 13, were circled out to highlight regulations that are particularly repressive towards women. Point 7 reads, “It’s forbidden to serve women after 9pm unless they’re with their mahram” while point 13 reads, “It’s haram by law for men and women to sit at the same table unless [the man] is her mahram.”

In Islamic law in this context, mahram is a legal escort of women while they’re out in public, usually one’s husband or immediate family.

(Other rules that weren’t highlighted in the circular include a prohibition on the “facilitation” of immoral acts such as LGBT relations, although persecution of sexual minorities is unfortunately already common in Aceh.)

While Bireuen’s regent has not publicly released a statement regarding the new regulation, the regency’s Islamic Sharia Agency confirmed that it was passed to ensure cafés uphold morality standards according to Islam.

“[Points 7 and 13] are to prevent infidelity. Our aim is to prevent other forms of sharia violations too,” Bireuen Islamic Sharia Agency Head Jufliwan told Detik yesterday.

That said, Jufliwan said there are no specific legal sanctions yet for violators of the new regulation while the government is giving “dakwah” (preaching) about the new rules to the public.

In January, a district in Aceh received worldwide scrutiny for its discrimination towards women after it passed a regulation requiring female flight attendants flying into the region to wear the hijab or face punishment by religious police. While Indonesian airlines said they would comply, this meant they ended up mostly sending male flight attendants for flights in an out of the district, which includes the province’s capital of Banda Aceh.

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