Indonesian lawmakers drop miniskirts at House

As the public remains cautious over the government's plan to increase fuel prices, the House of Representatives (DPR) has shifted its focus from that crucial issue to a preoccupation with promiscuity.

Instead of speaking about the fuel hike policy, set to go into effect in three weeks, House Speaker Marzuki Alie talked about promiscuity at the legislative body on Tuesday.

"We hope it [sex scandals] won't happen again," Marzuki told the press.

He was responding to a regulation recently issued by the House's households affairs body which bans women from wearing revealing dresses as it might trigger immoral conduct.

The regulation requires all staff members at the House to wear proper attire at work. "The regulation is aimed at improving the House's image. Nevertheless, it's the ethics. We must adhere to Indonesian culture," household affairs body deputy chief Refrizal told reporters recently.

Marzuki acknowledged that the regulation was part of efforts to restore the image of the House.

He said he hoped the newly issued regulation would prevent sex scandals from occurring at the House.

Former legislator Permadi once said a cleaning service staff member had told him he often found used condoms in the rooms of the legislators.

Permadi also claimed some personal assistants had been sexually abused by legislators.

The sex scandal between Golkar legislator Yahya Zaini and dangdut singer Maria Eva in 2006 is an example of such promiscuity.

The House again caught the public's attention last year when Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) legislator Arifinto was photographed viewing pornography on his laptop during a House session.

"That was then and we don't want it to happen again," Marzuki said.

Despite some commentators calling the regulation sexist, lawmakers gave it their full support.

Model-turned-lawmaker Venna Melinda encouraged the issuance of other regulations to promote the greater good, such as improving hygiene and health around the House complex.

"What about those who freely smoke at non-smoking areas around the House complex? Shouldn't we also care about this?" said Venna, a Democratic Party legislator.

As part of efforts to restore its image, the House recently closed down a coffee shop inside its building that had allegedly been used by legislators to facilitate "mafia" negotiations concerning the state budget.

House observers, however, say that legislators have missed the core problem that has resulted in the tainted image of the House: its poor performance.

"Banning women from wearing miniskirts around the House will not guarantee any improvement in the legislature's performance, nor will it boost its image," House of Representatives Watchdog (Formappi) executive director Sebastian Salang told The Jakarta Post.

He cited corrupt practices and House members' laziness as the primary factors that had damaged the legislature's image.

Center for Legal and Policy Studies (PSHK) analyst Ronald Rofiandri suggested House leaders, as well as all legislators, focus on improving the quality of their work to boost the overall image of Indonesia's legislature.