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Rights group urges Indonesia to repeal laws violating human rights

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the Indonesian government to repeal two Sharia laws [report materials; press release] that the group says violate human rights and international treaties. The laws, local to the Aceh province, require strict Islamic dress in public and prohibit unmarried men and women from being alone together. The report does not criticize all Islamic law:

Human Rights Watch takes no position on Sharia law or on provisions that regulate the internal workings of Islam. We are concerned, however, that two of the laws—one prohibiting unmarried individuals of different sexes from being together in certain circumstances, the other imposing public dress requirements on Muslims—violate Indonesia's constitutional protections for basic rights as well as international human rights law which Indonesia has accepted as legally binding.
HRW claims that the laws are applied unfairly, targeting mainly women and the poor, and impose punishments that are too severe. The group also argues that the laws violate international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) [texts] and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) [official website].

Human rights groups that have been pushing for reform in Indonesia. In October, the Indonesian Constitutional Court [official website, in Bahasa] overturned [press release, in Bahasa; JURIST report] a law that has allowed the Indonesian government to ban books it deemed controversial for nearly 50 years. The court found [Jakarta Post report] that giving the Attorney General [official website, in Bahasa] the authority to ban books violated the Indonesian Constitution [text] by denying basic human rights without due process of the law. In June, HRW urged [JURIST report] the Indonesian government to release secession activists and adhere to international standards of free speech. In April, the Constitutional Court upheld [JURIST report] a controversial anti-blasphemy law enacted in 1965 by the first Indonesian president. The court rejected the legal challenge raised by a coalition of human rights groups and social activists supporting the Wahid Organization, a civil organization that advocates for religious pluralism in Indonesia.

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