Indonesian School Criticised For Shaving Girls' Heads Over Hijab Issue

A school teacher in Indonesia's East Java faces backlash for partially shaving 14 girls' heads over improper hijab wearing. The incident highlights controversies around dress codes, religious freedom, and human rights.

Harnur Watta
Aug 29, 2023 09:54 IST
Image credits: HuffPost UK

Image credits: HuffPost UK

A school on Indonesia's main island recently made headlines as it came under scrutiny for partially shaving the heads of more than a dozen girls due to accusations of improper wearing of Islamic hijab headscarves. 

The incident, which occurred at the state-owned junior high school SMPN 1 in the East Java town of Lamongan, has ignited debates over the enforcement of conservative dress codes in the country.

The controversy emerged last Wednesday when an unidentified teacher at SMPN 1 reportedly took the drastic step of partially shaving the hair of 14 Muslim girls who were accused of wearing their hijab headscarves incorrectly

According to Harto, the headmaster of the school, the girls did not have inner caps under their headscarves, resulting in visible fringes. 


While the school expressed that there is no obligation for female students to wear hijab, Harto mentioned that they were advised to use inner caps for a more tidy appearance.

"We apologised to the parents and after mediation, we reached a common understanding," Harto stated to AFP, acknowledging the concerns raised by parents and activists alike.

Long-Standing Dress Code Controversy


The incident sheds light on a broader issue regarding the dress codes enforced in parts of Indonesia, particularly in conservative regions. 

Activists have long criticised the practice of forcing both Muslim and non-Muslim girls to wear the hijab, a headscarf commonly worn by Muslim women, even in cases where it might not align with personal or religious beliefs.

Indonesia, a diverse archipelago nation with a population of 270 million, introduced a ban on mandatory dress codes in schools in 2021, striving to protect students' freedom of choice.


However, instances like the recent incident in Lamongan raise concerns about the extent to which these regulations are being upheld.

Calls for Accountability and Change

Human rights organisations have voiced their concern over the incident, demanding accountability and urging change within the educational system. 


Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, emphasised the severity of the issue: "The Lamongan case is probably the most intimidating ever in Indonesia." 

Harsono called for appropriate sanctions against the teacher responsible, including potential removal from the school, as well as psychological support for the affected students.

The rights group highlighted that such cases are not isolated, citing a 2021 report that revealed instances of students having their hijabs cut for not wearing them correctly, along with other punitive measures such as marks deductions and even expulsion.


As Indonesia recognizes six major religions and strives to maintain religious harmony, the incident further underscores concerns about increasing religious intolerance in the predominantly Muslim country. 

The issue of dress codes gained significant attention in 2021 when a Christian student in West Sumatra was pressured to wear a hijab, an incident that officials referred to as just the "tip of the iceberg."

The situation at SMPN 1 and its implications continue to fuel discussions about religious freedom, education policies, and the need for greater tolerance and understanding in Indonesia's diverse society.


Suggested Reading: Kidnapped Woman Passes 'Call 911' Note At Gas Station; Rescued


#hijab #Indonesia