When religion and safety clash, who wins?

Rafael Consunji sent me this interesting and somewhat troubling report about a recent law in Aceh, Indonesia that would prohibit women from ‘straddling’ motorcycles or bicycles. He said “this is causing an uproar in Indonesia. The driving force behind the law is not safety but concern about breaking Shari’a law when straddling. The Jakarta Globe stated, “We’ve seen that people’s behaviors and morals are getting far from Aceh’s Islamic cultural values.” It goes on to state, “When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man. But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman.”  Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, but Aceh is the only province that enforces Shari‘a. Apparently the central government is considering whether to intervene and has called for the ban to be clarified and evaluated. Rights groups have also protested.


This prohibition is of concern because it is likely that riding side-saddle is more dangerous although, that said, the greater risk must surely be having two people on a bike or motorcycle in the first place!  It is interesting, however, that this is one of the few times when religion may conflict with safety; the only other example that comes to mind is when turbans prevent the use of a helmet. (It is, however, arguable that a turban may be MORE protective than a helmet!) If you can think of any others, please post a comment.

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/01/07/indonesia-city-to-prohibit-women-from-straddling-behind-male-motorists/#ixzz2IIBvZ66Q

  • Another example of a potential link between religion observation and injury risk is the impact that fasting, such as Ramadan, can have on sporting performances.  See my blog from the 2012 Olympics: https://theconversation.edu.au/what-do-the-olympics-and-ramadan-have-in-common-8531

  • PapaDocPenfro

    “It is, however, arguable that a turban may be MORE protective than a helmet!”  This argument is only put forward by Sikhs.  Everybody else recognises it for the specious nonsense that it is.  The Sikh-exemption clause in the UK compulsory helmet law (c1973) was a disastrous precedent that has paved the way for followers of all religions to claim that they are entitled to ignore any aspect of civil law that they find disagreeable.  I often feel that atheists and agnostics are the only people to whom the whole of UK law applies … every religious group has a set of privileged exemptions that they claim for themselves, while at the same time bleating that they are the ‘persecuted’ ones.

  • johndowdle

    I am not sure what the result was of a recent UK survey on whether or not pharmacists should be allowed to refuse GP-prescribed medication for birth control and morning after pills if pharmacists objected to dispensing the medications on religious belief grounds.  Does anyone know what the outcome of this survey was?

  • Peter_Jacobsen

    Orthodox Jews ignore traffic signals and are safer… http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2004.10.004 Only as an afterthought, do the authors announce the Orthodox area has a lower injury rate than the adjacent secular area…

  • Peter_Jacobsen

    Their last paragraph is the most fascinating:

    Finally, fortunately the rate of injuries from road accidents in Bnei-Brak [orthodox area] is not as high as in other areas in neighborhood (Israeli Central Bureau of Statistic, 2003). Although Bnei-Brak residents [pedestrians] commit three times more on-road violations than residents of other cities, it is not reflected by the injury statistics. Based on open conversations with drivers it became evident that drivers are aware of the risky road habits of Bnei-Brak pedestrians. The special interaction between drivers and pedestrians in this city must be investigated