Indonesia's Islamic laws are 'abusive', report says
- 1 December 2010 Last updated at 04:40 GMT
Indonesia's Islamic laws are 'abusive', report saysWomen, especially poor women, bear the brunt of shariah law in Aceh, says Human Rights Watch
Two Islamic laws applied in the Indonesian province of Aceh violate peoples' rights and are implemented abusively, a new report has concluded.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch group (HRW) says two of five local laws based on the Shariah legal code discriminate against women.
The laws against "seclusion" and dress codes are also not applied against rich or well-connected people, it says.
Islamic law applies only in Aceh in the secular state of Indonesia.
The new HRW report, "Policing Morality: Abuses in the Application of Sharia in Aceh, Indonesia," notes that the rights group takes no position on Shariah law as a whole - a system its supporters say provides a comprehensive guide to behaviour.
However, 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.Abuse
"The laws, and their selective enforcement, are an invitation to abuse," she said.
The word "seclusion" has been used to bar people simply meeting and talking in a quiet place.
Abuses include aggressive interrogations and attempts to force people to marry.
At least one case of rape of a woman in detention by the shariah police officers has occurred.
HRW says shariah police officers have told their 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.
There has been no central or local government response to the HRW report.