Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nurses seek right to wear headscarves on the job

National News - February 13, 2007
Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Some 28 nurses working at privately-run Kebonjati Hospital in Bandung, West Java, staged a rally Monday to protest the hospital's ban on the use of Muslim headscarves, locally known as jilbab.

Accompanied by representatives of the Bandung chapter of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), the nurses demanded that the hospital revoke the ban.

Nurse Yanti Sumiyanti said the majority of Muslim nurses working at the hospital dared to use their headscarves only on the way to and from their houses.

"As soon as we arrive here, we are forced to take off our headscarves and serve the patients using nurse's uniforms as required by the management," Yanti said during a meeting with management overseen by the head of the Bandung police detective unit, Adj. Comr. I Ketut Adi Purnama.

Yanti said that since 2004, the nurses had asked the management several times to be allowed to wear headscarves. Hospital chairman Djohan Somalie turned down the request, however, on the grounds that the hospital did not represent any particular religion.

That stance was affirmed by Yunandi, the deputy director of medical services, who represented management in the hearing.

"Kebonjati Hospital is a general hospital which does not represent a certain religion. We never imposed a regulation preventing the use of headscarves, but we have our own regulation on the use of uniforms, with clear-cut pictures. It's similar to those used by the police, the military. They have their own uniforms, don't they?" Yunandi asked.

Yunandi said the regulation on the use of nursing uniforms had been in force since 1979. He said all employees were told they must wear white skirts and blouses with nurse caps.

Nurse Nining Sariningsih, 26, said besides upholding Islamic law, she felt more secure and comfortable wearing a headscarf with trousers and a long-sleeved shirt.

Nining argued that when she had to bathe a baby or lift a patient onto a bed, the short uniforms were not practical.

"Our legs are plainly visible; it makes us ashamed. Never mind that we are forced to go up and down the stairs," she said.

Asep Syarifudin, deputy chairman of FPI's Bandung chapter, urged the management to uphold Muslim women's rights to use headscarves as guaranteed by the Constitution.

"Policewomen in Aceh wear headscarves, while in India we frequently see policemen who wear turbans on their heads," Asep said.

In response to the protest, three representatives of the management signed a letter in their capacity as individuals to support the use of headscarves.

"Such support constitutes progress ... we hope we can continue wearing headscarves," Yanti said.


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