A growing number of girls in the Indonesian province of Aceh are wearing face coverings in an attempt to avoid sexual violence.
Local women have also started using masks for modesty and hygiene purposes.
The masks are a way of expressing their identity, they say, and not just as a way to hide.
“They are not just a way for us to hide from men,” said Suara, a teacher in Aceh’s southern district of Bukit Panjang, where the new trend is gaining popularity.
“It is not a way that we are not supposed to have.
It is just a different way to express ourselves.”
The masks are popular among a generation of young women who say they are uncomfortable wearing a face covering.
Some of the masks are being sold online, as well as in the local market, where they have sold for hundreds of dollars each.
“Aceh is a very religious country and it is very traditional, so it is hard to have a face cover, and we have a lot of masks,” said Ariana, who has been a teacher since she was 10.
She said that she has seen several girls wearing the masks in class.
“When we were in high school, we were taught that girls are not allowed to wear makeup, so I had a big problem with it,” she said.
“I wore it for a few years, and when I was 16, I took it off.
But now, when I get to my 20s, I don’t really care about it.”
The schoolgirls are not the only ones who are experimenting with the new face cover.
Some local men have also taken to wearing the face cover for modesty reasons.
“You can wear it in a way you want,” said Anas, a 22-year-old teacher who has taught in Bukit Pasan.
“If you are really happy, then wear it.
If you are sad, you don’t need it.
I think it is just different.”
Anas said that some men wear masks because of the pressure they feel from their families.
“Many of them are in a very tight relationship, so they have a huge responsibility for the way their relationship is being structured,” she told Al Jazeera.
“Sometimes, they don’t want to wear it because they are afraid they will be attacked.
They might wear it for modesty.”
One of the women who has started wearing the mask said she had felt a little uncomfortable when she was at school.
“Some days, my teacher told me to put my mask on and not to tell anyone,” she recalled.
“So I put on my mask and then I was walking around with my mask in my hand.
Then my teacher asked me what I was doing.
I said I was trying to express myself.”
A group of five to 10 schoolgirls, some of whom are wearing the headscarf, are currently wearing masks for the first time in a bid to promote modesty in Indonesia.
“We are not trying to hide our faces, but it is about showing respect for the culture,” said Hina, a 21-year old schoolgirl.
“In Indonesia, there is no such thing as wearing a mask for modesty.
It’s just for being seen as the girl you are supposed to be.”
The women who wear the mask have not always been able to hide their identities.
Some students who were forced to wear masks as children, or those who had relatives who died during the Vietnam War, were forced by their families to cover up as they grew older.
“Even though it was not a big deal for me, I was scared because my parents would be furious if I did not,” said Kaiti, a schoolgirl in Bukitt Pasan, who said that her mother had always told her not to wear a mask.
“My mother used to tell me, ‘don’t wear a face mask because your parents will find out about it’.”
Kaiti said that since the schoolgirls wore the masks, she has noticed a rise in sexual harassment from men.
“Since I have been wearing the makeup, I have also noticed a decrease in harassment from guys,” she explained.
“I was afraid if I tried to hide it, I would get caught.”
A few years ago, the mask trend caught on in Indonesia, and local news outlets reported on the growing number, but little was known about the masks’ origins.
“The mask is just something that is worn by many of the young women and girls,” said Jukan, a researcher who has studied the issue.
“But for many, it is a form of protection.”
The mask trend has also been controversial in Acegasm, where some local men are also becoming increasingly aggressive towards the women wearing the faces, according to the local media.
“As a woman, I am not allowed in the public places and I am considered an outsider,” said one of the masked women who recently wore