Chris Barrett and Karuni Rompies, Singapore – Indonesian girls and women have frequently been ordered to wear Muslim dress regardless of their religion in what has been described as a breach of their human rights.
A report produced by advocacy organisation Human Rights Watch examines discrimination confronted by girls who under local government regulations have been required to wear the hijab at school against their wishes and by women in the public service who risk losing their jobs if they do not comply with demands about their clothing.
President Joko Widodo's Indonesian government last month banned schools across the archipelago from forcing students to dress in religious attire, with Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim saying it was an "individual's right" for students and teachers to choose whether or not to wear the Islamic head covering and "not the school's decision".
The joint ministerial decree followed public outrage about the case of a 16-year-old female Christian student who was pressured to wear the hijab to her public school in Padang, West Sumatra, prompting her parents to film a meeting with school officials and post it online.
Her father Elianu Hia told the school his daughter Jeni's Christian faith would be compromised if she was forced to wear an Islamic headscarf but was informed it was mandatory.
After Hia uploaded footage of his confrontation with a teacher to Facebook in January, the school principal apologised but the girl's father said he was "very concerned about the phenomenon of rampant intolerance in government-owned educational institutions".
The subsequent ruling called on local governments and school principals to remove compulsory dress regulations by March 5 and warned government funding could be withheld if those orders were not followed by March 25.
But Human Rights Watch is concerned that the ban only applies to state schools and does not include the semi-autonomous Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, which is governed under Sharia law.
The organisation has urged Indonesia to properly enforce the banning of compulsory religious dress codes for women and girls in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.
"Indonesian regulations and policies have long forced discriminatory dress codes on women and girls in schools and government offices that violate their right to freedom from coercion to adopt a religious belief," said Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson.
The ban on Muslim head scarfs in countries such as France and Switzerland also violated the religious freedom of Muslim women, she said. Pearson said Human Rights Watch did not oppose the hijab, only its compulsory use.
But she said that enforcing religious dress codes is "part of a broader attack by conservative religious forces on gender equality and the ability of women and girls to exercise their rights to an education, a livelihood, and social benefits".
While the vast majority of Indonesia's 270 million people are Muslim, the country officially recognises six religions.
Human Rights Watch said that since 2001, more than 60 Muslim dress code orders had been issued by local and provincial governments and that in most of the country's 300,000 state schools girls had to wear the hijab from primary school.
Academic and painter Dewi Candraningrum told researchers she was pressured to wear Muslim attire at her workplace.
"My colleagues used to pressure me or threaten me, hoping to get me fired [if I didn't wear the hijab]," she said. "And since I have to provide for my child, feed my child, wearing a jilbab [hajib] became a necessary tool to feed my child."
The report includes personal testimony from a former student from a vocational state school in Bandar Lampung, Sumatra, who at the age of 16 in 2017 was summoned by teachers after repeatedly taking off her hijab.
"I tried to challenge them: Is this a state school or an Islamic madrasah?" she told Human Rights Watch.
"A senior teacher walked towards me and roughly held my face. She told me she wished I would die in the next three months if I fabricated a story about being threatened by the teachers."
Indonesia's former Minister of Education and Culture Mohammad Nuh, who in 2014 oversaw the development of a national state school uniform, told the researchers he never intended the Muslim uniform to be made compulsory for all. "I wrote that regulation. But it is not mandatory," he said.
Alissa Wahid, the daughter of Abdurrahman Wahid, the former Indonesian president known as Gus Dur, said even as someone from a famous family she had been bullied over the way she wore the hijab.
She said the autonomy of provincial governments "has not been managed well", and blamed "political populism" for the lack of will to protect the right to resist religious dress codes.
"What the majority wants, the majority gets without any consideration on the constitution."