Indonesian women stripped of mini skirt rights

MICHAEL BACHELARD INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT
Last updated 07:58 29/03/2012

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Indonesia's powerful religious affairs minister has declared that mini-skirts are pornographic and would be banned under the country's tough new anti-porn laws.

Minister Suryadharma Ali has been appointed to run Indonesia's new anti-porn task force, announced by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier this month.

He told reporters in Jakarta yesterday that before deciding what they must ban as pornography, the task force would consult widely to come up with "a set of universal criteria", adding that "one [criteria] will be when someone wears a skirt above the knee", according to the Jakarta Post.

Once a standard of pornography was established, the task force would apply it nationwide across all ethnicities, the newspaper reported.

Entrenched corruption is tearing apart the ruling Democratic Party and imprisoning its members of parliament. While thousands are demonstrating on the streets about fuel price rises and the cost of living,  the Indonesian government's response has been to crack down hard on short skirts.

Earlier this month, the country's parliamentary speaker Marzuki Alie announced he would draft rules banning female politicians and staff members from wearing mini skirts, saying, "there have been a lot of rape cases and other immoral acts recently and this is because women aren't wearing appropriate clothes".

"You know what men are like. Provocative clothing will make them do things."

The president announced the anti-pornography task force earlier this month to try to remove it entirely from Indonesia. Judging by a recent Google survey, Indonesians consume porn at least as enthusiastically as other people, despite a large majority of the population being Muslim.

Yudhoyono put Suryadharma, the religious affairs minister, in charge of the task force's day to day operation.

The minister is no stranger to controversy. In January he said the Shiite version of Islam, a minority interpretation in Indonesia, was heretical because it deviated from mainstream muslim teaching.

Declaring a sect heretical in Indonesia can be dangerous. Last year a machete-wielding mob attacked and killed three members of the "heretical" Ahmadiyah sect.

Suryadharma's department is also controversial. In February, Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission questioned the whereabouts of millions of dollars in interest earned on the deposits that pilgrims paid to the department to join the waiting list for a trip to Mecca.

These deposits, added to donations made to the poor, make the religious affairs department the wealthiest in the Indonesian government.

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- The Age

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