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Gender discourse within the application of Islamic law in Aceh, Indonesia

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2020
Number of pages221
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis is about Aceh, Indonesia, the Northernmost province in Indonesia with special autonomous rights to implement Islamic law, better known as shari’a. It examines the discursive practice of the implementation of shari’a in Aceh, regarding how men and women should behave.

This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted from August 2016 to February 2017 in Aceh, Indonesia. In analysing the data, this thesis is informed by constructivist grounded theory and critical discourse analysis. This research found that local shari’a codification regulates people in various aspects, from public appearance, religiosity, morality and behaviour, as well as mobility and sexuality. It argues that the law is constructed within a patriarchal interpretation and it regulates women more than men.

The finding also highlights the local shari’a regulations are aimed at creating what Foucault referred to as the “docile body”, in which the government, through the law and its various shari’a institutions, has set certain norms to regulate and control people as well as monitor the practice of shari’a to ensure their obedience. Aceh’s shari’a also regulates various forms of penalties, including public caning. This research illuminates how this punishment reproduces and sustains the concept of masculinity and gender hierarchy.

The discourse of shari’a application in Aceh constitutes expressions of masculinity and femininity and sexuality. This thesis argues this local codified version of shari’a promotes the idea of a unified standard model of femininity, in particular how women should be dressed in public.

This thesis also provides alternative views of women’s agency. Agency here is not only seen as a form of resistance, it also considers how women negotiate all the regulations and patriarchal values, but at the same time they create space to destabilise, construct and re construct these norms.