Eliminate Discrimination in Education

The obligation to wear headscarves imposed on Muslim and non-Muslim students at SMK Negeri 2 Padang, West Sumatra has attracted wide attention from various groups. This issue stems from the upload of a video of a debate between one of the students' parents and the school regarding the policy of using the headscarf. The student in question also uploaded a statement stating her unwillingness to follow the rules for wearing a headscarf at school via her Facebook account. In the video that circulated, the Deputy Principal for Student Affairs at SMKN 2 Padang admitted that there were indeed rules regarding dress procedures for students, one of which was the obligation to wear headscarves for students at the school. From the investigation results of the West Sumatra Education Office, there are 46 non-Muslim students who attend SMKN 2 Padang.

Imparsial views that the policy that requires the use of headscarves for non-Muslim students in educational units managed by the government and/or local governments is a form of discrimination and violates the right to freedom of religion or belief guaranteed by the Constitution. These educational units should respect the diversity of religions or beliefs of students. In this context, public schools, including policies that are applied to students, should not be affiliated with certain religions or beliefs. Instead, schools should promote awareness of mutual respect for differences and diversity of religions or beliefs, and take effective steps to eliminate discriminatory policies and practices.

Regulations related to school uniforms have actually been clearly regulated in Article 3 paragraph (4) letter d of Permendikbud 45 of 2014 concerning School Uniforms for Students at Elementary and Secondary Education which reads: "School uniforms are regulated by each school with continue to pay attention to the right of every citizen to practice their respective religious beliefs.” This rule should be used as a reference by educational units in drafting regulations on school uniforms so as to guarantee principal matters, such as the right to religion and education.

Issues regarding the use of religious symbols and attributes are part of the right to religion or belief which the state is obliged to respect, protect and fulfill. The Human Rights principle emphasizes the state's obligation to maintain positive and negative freedom of religion or belief at the same time. Positive freedom is the freedom of each person to use religious symbols, such as the hijab, veil, turban, and kipran, as a free choice, without coercion. On the other hand, negative freedom requires the state or other public authorities not to enforce the use of religious symbols or attributes forcibly against certain individuals or groups. (SNP-KBB)

Imparsial assesses that issues related to school uniforms with certain religious attributes that are forced on students must be taken seriously considering this is not only happening in Padang, but also in other areas such as Yogyakarta, Depok, Riau, Bali, Maumere, etc. The rise of cases like this shows that our education system has not adopted the principles of respect for the diversity of religions and beliefs in society. Not only in regulations related to school uniforms, but in the curriculum and/or content of teaching materials, as well as routine school activities it is also necessary to prioritize these principles. If this issue is not addressed by the government and/or local government, then educational units can become a place to sow the seeds of an attitude of rejection towards diversity, especially for children (students) who can contribute to encouraging the strengthening of social segregation and intolerance in society. the middle of society.

Rules that require the wearing of headscarves for schoolgirls are often based on fabricated reasons and gender bias, such as preventing students from being bitten by mosquitoes, avoiding bullying, and protecting students from sexual harassment. The enforcement of this rule does not target the main problems that occur in the school environment. The firm response given by the Ministry of Education and Culture to the case that occurred in Padang is a good step. However, more comprehensive and systemic measures are needed to avoid recurrence. So that the issue of discrimination and intolerance in the educational environment can be removed. This case should be a momentum to make schools a zone of tolerance education.

Based on the explanation above, Imparsial encourages:

  1. The government and local governments need to evaluate discriminatory systems and regulations in the school environment, considering that incidents of forcing certain religious symbols, attributes, and rituals to students of different religions occur in a number of areas.
  2. Strengthening supervision and accountability for the implementation of applicable regulations so that there is no repeated discrimination.
  3. All parties, including the school, must participate in ensuring the fulfillment of the right to religion or belief, providing protection for children from all forms of discrimination, one of which is by making rules that are inclusive of all students so that there are no discriminatory and intolerant actions against certain groups of students.
  4. The government and local governments need to make the SNP-KBB made by Komnas HAM as a guide in implementing guarantees for the protection of the right to KBB, including in the education environment.

Jakarta, January 27th, 2021


For further information please contact:
Amalia Suri (Imparsial Researcher/082367832141)
Annisa Yudha (Imparsial Researcher/085711784064)

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