In yet another chapter of the book of “women who walk alone at night invite lechery,” the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh passed a law prohibiting women from staying out past 11 p.m., for work or leisure, Al Jazeera reported. Indonesian activists are calling to repeal the repressive partial curfew.
Banda Aceh is the capital of the notoriously conservative Aceh province, where a strict version of Islamic rule has been in place since 2001. The curfew joins other gender-centric public conduct laws, including a rule barring women from being outdoors after 9 p.m. without accompaniment by their husbands or family members.
Opponents of the curfew say it violates women’s right to movement and discriminates against women who work at night to support their families (which is certainly does). The Banda Aceh government claims the law is designed to protect women against sexual harassment and overwork. Though some women are flouting curfew, its impact is reportedly visible, as men now fill most city cafes.
Putting a women’s curfew into law is a particularly blatant example of an insidious breed of gender discrimination: infantilizing women under the guise of protecting their well-being. But even in purportedly progressive societies — where no local or national government could get away with formally banning nighttime strolls — the view that women should hole up after dark — for their own sakes — is alive and well.
Earlier this year, for example, a mayor in Australia issued a public statement in response to the three-on-one rape of a 17-year-old girl in which he intimated that, for women, walking alone at night is “in itself an invitation for someone to take advantage of you.”
Even products and services designed to empower women-in-the-night subtly promote the idea of female assault as an unfortunate inevitability. Consider AR Wear, an anti-rape “clothing line offering wearing protection for when things go wrong.”
SoulCycle? Lululemon. Blind date or P.M. jog? Upgrade to scissor-resistant teflon-strength shapewear or shorts. That’s bleak.
AR Wear, to its credit, does acknowledge rape culture as the larger problem:
“Only by raising awareness and education, as well as bringing rapists to justice, can we all hope to eventually accomplish the goal of eliminating rape as a threat to both women and men. Meanwhile, as long as sexual predators continue to populate our world, AR Wear would like to provide products to women and girls that will offer better protection against some attempted rapes while the work of changing society's rape culture moves forward.”
Still, neither “protective curfews” nor literal body armor are a great look for humanity.