Indonesian district bans unmarried couples from motorbike rides

A man and a woman ride a motor bike in Banda Aceh on May 4, 2015. North Aceh district in Indonesia's Aceh has passed legislation banning unmarried men and women from riding together on motorbikes, a lawmaker said on May 4, the latest new Islamic regu
A man and a woman ride a motor bike in Banda Aceh on May 4, 2015. North Aceh district in Indonesia's Aceh has passed legislation banning unmarried men and women from riding together on motorbikes, a lawmaker said on May 4, the latest new Islamic regulation in the conservative province. -- PHOTO: AFP

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AFP) - A district in Indonesia's Aceh has passed legislation banning unmarried men and women from riding together on motorbikes, a lawmaker said Monday, the latest new Islamic regulation in the conservative province.

Members of parliament in North Aceh district last week approved the regulation, which will come into effect in a year, said lawmaker Fauzan Hamzah, adding that authorities were making "efforts to implement sharia law fully".

"Unmarried people sitting closely together on a motorcycle is clearly against Islamic sharia as it could lead to sinful acts," Hamzah told AFP.

Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, is the only province in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country that is allowed to implement Islamic law, and gay sex, gambling and drinking alcohol are already punishable by caning.

The province began implementing sharia law after being granted special autonomy in 2001, an effort by the central government in Jakarta to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.

The latest move to ban shared motorbike rides, which will affect more than 500,000 people on North Aceh, came after one city in Aceh in 2013 prohibited women from straddling male drivers on motorbikes, requiring that they ride sidesaddle instead.

The new regulation was the most eye-catching in a series of Islamic bylaws approved in North Aceh on Thursday, which also included a ban on live music performances and the separation of male and female students in school. The new rules will take effect in May 2016 after a one-year grace period.

Hamzah did not say what punishments would be meted out to unmarried couples caught together on a motorbike.

He did list several punishments that could be implemented for all the new Islamic laws, which ranged from a formal reprimand to fines and people being expelled from their villages.

"We will make efforts so that deeds which can lead to sin are eliminated gradually in North Aceh district," he added.

The provincial parliament in Aceh, as well as district parliaments, can pass their own Islamic bylaws.