On Indonesia’s main island, a school’s decision to partially shave the heads of several girls for allegedly wearing their Islamic hijab headscarves improperly sparked controversy, the school’s principal confirmed on Monday.
In various regions of the 270-million-strong nation, there have been longstanding reports of Muslim and non-Muslim girls being compelled to wear hijabs. This led to a 2021 ban prohibiting schools from enforcing such dress requirements.
At SMPN 1, a state-run junior high school in East Java’s Lamongan, a teacher, whose identity remains undisclosed, took the step of partially shaving 14 Muslim students’ heads last week, shared the headmaster, Harto (who, like many in Indonesia, uses a single name).
The reason was that the students did not don the inner caps beneath their hijabs, making their hair fringes evident. Harto mentioned, “There’s no rule mandating wearing hijabs, but the inner caps were recommended for a tidier look.”
Harto added that the school has since expressed regret and suspended the teacher. He also stated, “We’ve apologized to the families and, after discussions, have come to a mutual understanding.” The school has also provided psychological support for the affected students.
Human Rights Watch’s Indonesia researcher, Andreas Harsono, urged for stronger action, stating, “The incident in Lamongan is among the most distressing cases in Indonesia.” He emphasized the need for the educator to face penalties, highlighting that no teacher has been held accountable in similar past incidents.
The 2021 report by Human Rights Watch cited instances of girls facing punishments, such as reductions in marks or even expulsion, for not wearing or incorrectly wearing hijabs. A significant event occurred in 2021 when a Christian student in West Sumatra was coerced into wearing a hijab, spotlighting the broader issue.”