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Knocking Knees

While Minister of Religion Wants Indonesian Women to Cover their Knees, Suryadharma Ali Acknowledges That Bali and Papua Dance to a Different Drummer

(3/30/2012) It appears that Bali may be spared from Indonesia’s growing fixation on regulating morality via loosely structured anti-pornography legislation.

The Bali Post quotes Indonesia’s Minister of Religion, Suryadharma Ali, who is pushing the criminalization of wearing of skirts above the knee, as insisting that the provinces of Bali and Papua would be exempted from the criteria now being formulated by a national committee attempting to determine exactly what constitutes pornography.

Speaking in Jakarta at the House of Representatives (DPR) on Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Suryadharma said: “This is something special for Bali and Papua. This is because their cultures are ‘like that.’”

Despite these exceptions, the government intends to push ahead in the formulating  general criteria on what constitutes pornography by setting nation-wide pornographic benchmarks.

The Minister told the press he is convinced that universal standards do exists on what constitutes pornography. “I am of the opinion that there must be a general criteria. For instance, woman must wear skirts (extending) below the knee,” added Suryadharma.

The Minister bemoaned that no general standard on what can be considered pornography exists in Indonesia. The Minister, who is also chairman of the Islamist United Development Party (PPP), said that the “aura” of a local population must be considered in setting pornographic standards. He cites how the bustier (kemben) and traditional blouses (kebaya) worn by Balinese women are not seen as pornographic by the local population.

Such clothing, said the Minister, might be seen as scandalous in other areas, but is accepted as traditional dress in Bali. Warming to the theme, the Minister added: “What’s more, the dancers (in Bali) with their dance movements that are really artistic, but not exotic, must be viewed differently.”

The Minister said the main duty of the team formulating pornographic standards is the need to educate the people on what constitutes pornography.