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Forest of Naked Women, Severe Punishment if Men Enter

Women only forest in Indonesia

You must have been really surprised to read the title! Is there such a jungle in the world?

One such forest is located in the area of Youtefa Bay in Papua, Indonesia.

The specialty of this jungle is that women can roam freely here.

Men are not allowed in this forest. If a man enters, he has to pay a fine of up to one million rupiah ($69/£50).

Women enter, take off their clothes and become naked. This mangrove forest is called Hutan Perempuan or Women’s Forest. This mangrove is one of the most interesting places for women in Papua, Indonesia.

Hutan Perempuan
Hutan Perempuan

This mangrove forest is spread over an area of ​​about 8 hectares in the eastern part of Kampung Enggros in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia.

Enggros Village
Enggros Village

The women of Enggros have a Tonowiyat tradition. Tonot means mangrove while wiyat means invitation. Tonotwiyat is a tradition for women in Enggros Village to visit mangrove forests to search for clams. They call it bia in the local language.

It’s a must for women to take off their clothes when they get inside the water and hunt for the clams. “Why must be that way? Yes, it should be like that. If not, we feel itchy. So, we must take off our clothes,” said Mama Ani.

They might have gone naked into the forest because their clothes were ruined in the muddy water. But no one knows when this strange rule began.

The Women’s Forest is also where women of Enggros village can have the freedom to speak out their thoughts. Even if it’s just a conversation about their household. What’s discussed in the forest, stays in the forest.

The exclusivity of the mangrove forest for women is due to the division of tasks between men and women in Enggros Village. Men are in charge of catching fish while women are on collecting clams.

Collecting clams
Collecting clams

Villager Adriana Meraudje said, “This has always been a women’s only forest. Long before I was born, it existed. It’s always been here, with the same rules. To enter the women’s forest, you have to be naked. You can’t wear clothes. If a man even peeks in, he will be punished – sanctioned, and fined. We take them to tribal court.

The women’s forest is a very important place for us in our bay. We can’t live without this forest. We will continue to come every day and look for clams. Here women confide in each other. We can never let it go.”

Maria Meraudje said, “We feel free to do anything we want. We are happiest when we’re in the forests.”

Ari Rumboyrusi, another villager, explained how women come together to exchange stories while they collect clams.

She said, “When it’s a low ride, we all go together. We invite our friends and enter the forest by boat. When we’re in the forest, we’re free, as there’s no men around. It’s just us women, so we freely share stories with the elders. We plunge our bodies into the sea, feeling our way through the mud for clams.”

The women then sell the clams collected from the forest in nearby markets.

Clams market
Credit: BBC

Environmental degradation that threatens mangrove conservation

Youtefa Bay has lost 50% of its mangrove conservation since 1967. Not to mention its high level of damage. “Our ocean used to be beautiful and crystal clear. Yet, the ocean today is such a pity, polluted with waste,” said Mama Ani. According to her, the garbage comes from Abepura, Entrop, and Hamadi.

Enggros Kampung leader Origenes Meraudje said, “We find more plastic than clams nowadays. We are so sad.”

A bathtub caught between mangrove trees
A bathtub caught between mangrove trees

She added, “Back in the day, we needed only half a day to fill up our boat [with clams]. But these days, we work the whole day but barely fill up half the boat.”

Watch the video below.

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Written by:

Morshed Alam
A teacher by profession, a traveler by passion and a netizen by choice.

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