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.