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20603Indonesia's Islamic laws are 'abusive', report says

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    Dec 1, 2010
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      1 December 2010 Last updated at 04:40 GMT

      Indonesia's Islamic laws are 'abusive', report says

      Murni Amris being caned for opening a food stall during the Ramadan fasting month, 1 Oct 2010, Aceh
       
       
      Women, especially poor women, bear the brunt of Sharia law in Aceh, says Human Rights Watch
       
      Continue reading the main story Two Islamic laws applied in the Indonesian province of Aceh violate people's rights and are implemented abusively, a new report has concluded.

      Human Rights Watch (HRW) says two of five local laws based on the Sharia legal code discriminate against women.

      It says the laws against "seclusion" - association by unmarried individuals of the opposite sex - and dress codes are also not applied to wealthy people.

      Islamic law applies only in Aceh in the secular state of Indonesia.

      The report by New York-based HRW, Policing Morality: Abuses in the Application of Sharia in Aceh, Indonesia, notes that the rights group takes no position on Sharia law as a whole - a system its supporters say provides a comprehensive guide to behaviour.

      However, it says the "seclusion" law, which makes association by unmarried individuals of the opposite sex a criminal offence in some circumstances, and laws on dress requirements, are discriminatory.

      "These two laws deny people's right to make their own decisions about who they meet and what they wear," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

      "The laws, and their selective enforcement, are an invitation to abuse," she said.

      Abuse

      The prohibition of men and women who are not blood relatives or married to one another from being together in an isolated place has been used to bar people simply meeting and talking in a quiet place, the report says.

      Abuses include aggressive interrogations and attempts to force people to marry.

      At least one case of rape of a woman in detention by Sharia police officers has occurred, the report says.

      HRW says Sharia police officers have told investigators that they sometimes force women and girls to submit to virginity exams as part of the investigation.

      The laws also allow for members of the public to identify, report and punish alleged misbehaviour which has also led to further violence and abuses which usually go unpunished, HRW says, citing several first-person accounts.

      Other Islamic laws applied in Aceh relate to charitable giving, gambling, Islamic ritual and proper Muslim behaviour.

      They were applied as part of the central government's attempts to appease the Islamic lobby in Aceh, where separatists have for years criticised unfairness in the distribution of wealth from Aceh's considerable oil and gas resources.

      Surveys in the province have regularly highlighted local residents' unhappiness with the laws.

      A presidential spokesman told the BBC that the government is reviewing local laws that could be in conflict with rights guaranteed in the Indonesian constitution.

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