Motorists inch their way in a heavy traffic in Sumatra, Indonesia, on November 19, 2011.
Credit: Ted Aljibe

Are you a woman in the Indonesian city of Lhokseumawe? Be forewarned: Female passengers are now only permitted to ride motorcycles side-saddle, as local authorities have concluded that "straddling" the bikes is a violation of Shariah law.

Lhokseumawe, located in the traditionally conservative Aceh province, has sent out leaflets to citizens and to government offices to inform them of the new regulation, says the BBC.

"When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man. But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman," Mayor Suaidi Yahya told the BBC, who added that passengers ridding side-saddle "rarely fall off."  

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The move has triggered backlash from Indonesian women's advocates, who say motorcycle riding is not specifically indicated in Shariah law, and that city government should devote itself to more pressing social matters.

“We, the women of Lhokseumawe, strongly oppose this very discriminative regulation because it ignores the rights of women in conducting their daily activities,” the executive director of Ranup Women Institute told the Jakarta Globe.

Women often ride side-saddle in conservative countries to preserve their modesty — a practice that wasn't unknown in the US and in other Western nations, either, until relatively recently.

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Due to safety issues, riding side-saddle on a motorcycle is illegal in a number of US states, and is also disallowed under Singapore's Road Traffic Act.

Connecticut law, for example, states, "Any person who rides sidesaddle on a motorcycle and any operator of a motorcycle who permits such riding or who carries a passenger on any motorcycle not designed for passengers shall have committed an infraction."

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