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Standing up for morals

A group of women students in Yogyakarta see sexual morality as an issue of national concern

Claudia Nef

   The Islamic campus: The Gadjah Mada University Mosque in Yogyakarta
   Claudia Nef

At around eight o’clock one morning in September 2009 about 60 young Muslim women started arriving at Gadjah Mada University Mosque in Yogyakarta. Most of them drove motorbikes, which they parked in the spacious parking-lot in front of the mosque. Some women arrived alone, but most came in pairs. They made their way to the yard of the mosque to attend a conference entitled ‘Prepare Yourself to Become a National Leader: A Critical Study on the Permissive Sexual Behavior of the Young Generation’.

The participants’ attire lacked variety. Most women dressed in ankle-length skirts, long blouses or long-sleeved, one-piece dresses with headscarves extending over the torso. The colours were muted and subtle, such as shades of blue, green, cream, purple or rose. Most donned flesh-coloured socks to avoid exposing their feet, and many wore wristbands, known as manset, to ensure their arms were well covered by the sleeves of their garments. The majority of the participants did not wear makeup. These women consider this clothing to be prescribed by the syariah, Islamic law, and as such, to be the correct way for a Muslim woman to dress.

The struggle for sexual morality

The students were gathering to express concern about what they regard as a decline in Islamic

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