Indonesian school shaves 14 girls’ hair over teacher’s hijab complaint

Tuesday, Aug 29, 2023

JAKARTA: A school on Indonesia´s main island has partially shaved the heads of more than a dozen girls, its headmaster said on Monday, after they were accused of wearing their Islamic hijab headscarves incorrectly.

Activists say Muslim and non-Muslim girls have been forced for years to wear a hijab in conservative parts of the archipelago nation of 270 million people, which moved in 2021 to ban schools from such mandatory dress codes.

An unidentified teacher at state-owned junior high school SMPN 1 in the East Java town of Lamongan partially shaved the hair of 14 Muslim girls last Wednesday, headmaster Harto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said.

Harto said the school had apologised and the teacher had been suspended. He said the schoolgirls did not wear inner caps under their headscarves, leaving their fringes visible.

“There is no obligation for female students to wear hijab, but they were advised to wear the inner caps for neat appearance,” Harto told AFP.

“We apologised to the parents and after mediation, we reached a common understanding.” The school has promised it would provide students with psychological assistance.

“We realised that we had to resolve it carefully not to bring prolonged effects to the children,” he said. “The Lamongan case is probably the most intimidating ever in Indonesia,” Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.