Indonesia's Aceh bans women from nightspots after 11pm

BANDA ACEH (AFP) - Women in the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh have been banned from entertainment venues like cafes and sports halls after 11pm, its mayor said Tuesday, the latest Islamic regulation in Aceh province.

Aceh, alone among Indonesia provinces, implements Islamic law and makes homosexuality, gambling and drinking alcohol punishable by caning.

Internet cafes, tourist sites, sports facilities and entertainment venues have been instructed to refuse service to women after 11pm unless they are accompanied by a husband or male family member.

Women will also be barred from working in such businesses after the cut-off time, in a move slammed by a women's rights advocate as discriminatory.

But Banda Aceh mayor Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal told AFP the decision had been "politicised" and was aimed at shielding women from sexual harassment.

"Our aim is to provide protection to female employees, especially those who work in area such as cafes, restaurants, Internet cafes and tourist attractions," she said.

Women who break the rules would be reprimanded but businesses that insisted on making their female employees work beyond the curfew risked losing their licence.

The chief of Indonesia's national commission for violence against women said the measure would only restrict women's freedom and threaten their livelihoods.

"The government should stop meddling in women's affairs," said Azriana, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name.

"If the intention of the Aceh government is to provide protection for women, it must instead educate the public and men to respect women or provide security at the nightspots."

Azriana said the regulation would likely see Aceh's morality police nabbing any women out after 11pm and not just those in specific sectors.

The decision comes just a month after unmarried men and women were banned from riding together on a motorbike in one of Aceh's districts.

Under 2013 legislation, women passengers behind a male driver were forbidden to straddle motorbikes and forced to ride side-saddle instead.

Indonesia has the world's biggest Muslim population, but the vast majority practise a moderate form of the faith.

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