Thu, Dec 23, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Indonesians uneasy with their navels

AGENCIES , JAKARTA

Extremist violence and corruption are key problems facing Indonesia's new President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono -- but so, it seems, are women's belly buttons.

For the second time in as many weeks, the president has spoken out against exposed navels, urging women in the world's largest Muslim-populated country to cover up.

"Indonesian women, who are known for their courtesy, should refrain from exposing their midriffs or belly buttons, which now seems to be taken for granted," Yudhoyono said at a function to mark Indonesia's women's day Wednesday.

"There are many ways to express beauty, as part of aesthetics, and to express freedom but not by showing things that lead to pornography," he said.

Yudhoyono said the state could not dictate how people should dress but citizens were expected to respect the country's moral values and courtesy.

Last week a cabinet minister quoted Yudhoyono as saying that he felt "disturbed and uneasy" to see television shows in which women exposed their navels.

Indonesian television is increasingly liberal in its programming. Kissing, formerly taboo, and skimpily dressed women are now common features in local soap operas, while pirated Western videos offer even racier viewing.

Meanwhile, the new president's performance rating has dipped among many Indonesians, but a big majority still have confidence in the urbane former general, a survey showed yesterday.

A nationwide poll by the respected Indonesia Survey Institute found 66.4 percent of 1,200 respondents were satisfied with Yudhoyono's performance since he was sworn in on Oct. 20, compared with 79.7 percent soon after he took office.

The latest poll was conducted from December 7 to 8.

Nearly 86 percent of respondents believed Yudhoyono had a workable plan to deal with Indonesia's many problems, while more than 83 percent said he was a firm leader, something craved by many Indonesians after six years of weak and ineffective civilian rule.

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