Indonesia - Stop the Virginity Tests

By Emma Husband, Staff Writer

Women entering the military in Indonesia have to undergo a 'virginity test' in order to be allowed in. The World Health Organization has called the tests a form of sexual violence and they have been more widely condemned as a breach of human rights and even torture. We call on Indonesia to stop this gender-based violence and discrimination.

The test itself, the so called 'two finger test' to see whether a woman's hymen is still intact, is not a reliable indicator of virginity. Many women are born without hymens and many more rupture them before they have had sex. However, this is largely irrelevant because there is no good reason for subjecting women to a test, even if accurate, nor discriminating against women due to their sexual history.

It is not just those joining the military in Indonesia who have to undergo this, but women joining the police and, until recently, a college for civil servants. Tedjo Edhi, Minister for Law and Politics has been noted as saying 'if a candidate turns out to be a prostitute, then how could we accept her for the job?' Women, then, are seen as the bearers of sexual morality. There is no such impetus on men to remain virgins to enter certain jobs and their sexual history is not linked to their moral standing in the same way.

The Indonesian Police Force, POLRI, has denied that the tests still take place while head of Police General, Sigit Sudarmanto, has agreed to abolish them. Brought to light by Human Rights Watch in 2014, there is evidence of the practice going on since 1965.

The test should be seen within the nuances of the social, religious and geographical context of  Indonesia. The most populous Muslim nation, made up on thousands of islands, there is continued religious conflict and persecution of minorities. The current government is hostile to some of the previous work done on gender equality; in some areas, there are women only subway carriages while in the city of Bireuen, women are not allowed to dance in public places. In the province of Aceh (the only province with Sharia Courts) they aren't allowed to straddle motorbikes.

The complexities of the situation should not be allowed to impede prompt and effective removal of virginity tests.