In the West, 21st Century women take their rights and freedoms for granted. 'Straddling a bike' may seem an odd thing to be restricted, and deemed male only, but in Indonesia that is what is about to happen.
Lhokseumawe in the Aceh province of Indonesia follows Sharia law. In fact the whole province of Aceh does so, unlike the rest of Indonesia. It is widely acknowledged that women's right are under attack by Sharia law. Religion however is always a controversial subject. One shocking example of Sharia law was portrayed in Egypt when the government was considering passing a farewell to intercourse law in 2012. This law was to allow husband's to engage in ‘farewell sex’ if the corpse is only six hours dead
Whilst 'straddling a bike' may not be on a par with such laws, it is still a restriction of freedom. It is based on the sex of a person and would not be allowed in, for example, the UK or USA.
Having seen plenty of images, from Indonesia, which show overloaded bicycles and motorbikes health and safety restrictions would be understood. Often a whole family it seems travels on one bike.
But no, the banning of women straddling bikes has nothing to do with health and safety but everything to do with religion and in particular Sharia law.
The city's Mayor, Suaidi Yahya, has tried to explain the reasoning behind this ban. He told the Jakarta Globe reports IBMWe've seen that people's behaviors and morals are getting far from Aceh's Islamic cultural values. We want to save women from things that will cause them to violate Sharia law. We wish to honor women with this ban, because they are delicate creatures," Mayor Suaidi Yahya told the Globe. When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man. But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman.
According to the Mayor riding side saddle does not pose a threat to the safety of the passenger. He confirmed that once the new rule is passed as a by-law sanctions will follow against any women who disobey.
As the BBC has reported however, at least one Muslim activist, Ulil Abshar Abdalla, has pointed out that, how to ride a bike if you are a woman is not advised in Sharia law. He also claims that there is no mention either in the sacred text of the Islamic religion, that is Koran or Hadiths.