A new report from Human Rights Watch has strongly condemned Indonesia for the widespread use of dress codes that force Christian women and girls to wear hijabs.

The report claims that discriminatory dress codes are often enforced on Christian women and girls in spaces where the government claims they are not allowed.

Human Rights Watch found evidence that Christian girls have been removed from schools and Christian women have been fired from their jobs for refusing Islamic clothing.

“Indonesian regulations and policies have long forced discriminatory dress codes on women and girls in schools and government offices that violate their right to freedom from coercion to adopt a religious belief,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. 

“Indonesia’s national, provincial, and local governments should immediately end these discriminatory practices and let women and girls wear what they choose without sacrificing their right to education or work.”

Most parts in Indonesia require that Muslim girls to wear hijabs to atttend school. While governments and schools claim non-Muslims are exempt, in many cases Christian girls are forced to wear hijabs and harassed if they refuse.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, with around 10% of Indonesians practicing Christianity.

While Indonesia officially respects the rights of Christians, a steady rise in Islamic fundamentalism in recent years has led women being forced to wear hijabs.

The treatment of Christian girls in Indonesia became well known when the plight of one girl who was pressured to wear hijab at her school went viral on social media. In response, Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture put out a statement saying schools are not supposed to enforce dress codes for religious garments. 

The father of the girl, Elianu Hia, told International Christian Concern he hopes his story will inspire Indonesia to become more tolerant of Christians. 

“I am grateful that my daughter’s case opened the eyes of everyone— now they are finally aware of the persecution of faith in schools,” he said.

As it turns out, the same thing has occurred not only in Padang, but also in several other places. My hope is that in Indonesia, there will no longer be any form of faith persecution in schools.”

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