Sonya Chaterina loved swimming as a child, but the fun stopped when she reached puberty.
‘Then we to had to cover our arms, legs and our hair,’ said the Indonesian Muslim. ‘A bathing suit was from then on no longer an option. I was very disappointed.’
For millions of Muslim women like Chaterina swimming is more complicated than just jumping into the water.
Though most Indonesians practise a tolerant form of the religion, which sometimes incorporates Hindu and animist beliefs, women are still obliged as Muslims to cover their bodies, leaving only their face and palms of their hands exposed.
A regular swimsuit is too skimpy and is considered a violation to Islamic teaching.
Chaterina, 29, a housewife and mother of two, was frustrated at becoming her husband’s deposit counter, caring for his glasses and wallet, while he swam with their kids at one of Indonesia’s many water parks.
Then she met Ait Djajaleksana, a young mother with the same dilemma of not being able to join her daughters in the swimming pool. Djajaleksana, frustrated that she couldn’t find a conservative swimsuit in the stores designed a ‘from head to ankle’ spandex Islamic bathing suit.
‘When my wife and I started making this swimsuit, it was merely for personal purposes,’ said Anom Djajaleksana, 45, who lives in south Jakarta.
‘I didn’t want to be the one who always has to take our kids to the swimming pool,’ Anom said laughing, ‘I want my wife to do the chore also.’
Ait’s design proved to be a hit, and orders for the suit started to flow in.