A TOWNSHIP in Indonesia’s staunchly Islamic Aceh province has issued a circular barring men and women from dining together unless they are married or related.
An official from the Bireun district on Wednesday said it would help women behave appropriately in public, the AFP reported.
According to Jakarta Post, the circular, distributed to coffee shops, cafes and restaurants are meant to serve as a guideline for business owners to abide by Syariah law, which prohibits khalwat (close proximity). The act of khalwat takes place when an unmarried man and woman are alone together in a secluded place.
“The circular was meant to keep the relationship between men and women in Bireuen in line with sharia rather than oppress them, so they won’t get caught violating qanun jinayat [Islamic criminal code],” Bireuen Syariah agency head Jufliwan was quoted as saying.
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim majority country, that imposes Islamic law.
The province has often received brickbats for subjecting women to moral restrictions.
Rights groups have also condemned the semi-autonomous province’s laws, which impose whipping for moral and victimless offences such as homosexuality, gambling, drinking alcohol and consensual premarital sex.
The latest directive also bars women from being served at restaurants and cafés alone unless they are with their families.
“The objective is to protect women’s dignity so they will feel more comfortable, more at ease, more well behaved and will not do anything that violates Syariah (Islamic law),” Jufliwan, who like many Indonesians has only one name, told AFP.
The directive also bans co-workers from sharing a meal during their lunch break.
Authorities say it will be up to restaurateurs to enforce the regulation, although offenders will not be punished.
Three years ago, the province’s capital Banda Aceh banned unaccompanied women from entertainment venues like cafes and sports halls after 11pm.