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Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 09:52

Indonesian police criticized for virginity tests

By Agencies
Indonesian police criticized for virginity tests

In this photograph taken on June 3, 2014, an Indonesian police official inspects new police women recruit during an official ceremony in Semarang in Central Java province. (AFP PHOTO / FREDDY UMAR)

Indonesia's national police were urged on Tuesday to halt virginity tests for women applying to join the force in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

Human Rights Watch called the practice harmful and humiliating, as female applicants are required to be both unmarried and virgins, and the virginity test is still widely used despite the insistence of some senior police officials that the practice has been discontinued.

In a series of interviews with the watchdog group, young women - including some who underwent the test as recently as this year - described the procedure as painful and traumatic.

The women told how they were forced to strip naked before female medics gave them a "two-finger test", to see if their hymens were intact, a practice described by HRW as archaic and discredited.

"I don't want to remember those bad experiences. It was humiliating," said one 19-year-woman who was given the test in Pekanbaru, on western Sumatra island. Her identity was not disclosed.

"Why should we take off our clothes in front of strangers? It is not necessary. I think it should be stopped," she was quoted as saying.

One candidate, who had undergone the test and asked to remain anonymous, said she agreed with it in principle.

"I don't have a problem with the test ... but the way in which it was conducted, with many people in one room, violated our privacy," she said.

Nisha Varia, associate women's rights director at HRW, said, "The Indonesian National Police's use of virginity tests is a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women. Police authorities in Jakarta need to immediately and unequivocally abolish the test, and then make certain that all police recruiting stations nationwide stop administering it."

The tests not only contravene the police guidelines on recruitment but violate international human rights of equality, nondiscrimination and privacy, HRW said.

A spokesman for the police, Ronny Sompie, said a "comprehensive health test" was carried out on all applicants, and officials wanted to ensure that candidates were free from sexually transmitted diseases.

He said the discovery that a woman was not a virgin did not necessarily mean she would fail the application process.

However, HRW said that a posting on the police force's own website this month noted that female applicants must be virgins.

National Police High Commissioner Sri Rumiati told the rights group that colleagues had opposed her calls in 2010 to stop the tests.

Women currently make up about 3 percent of the 400,000-strong force, but HRW said the police had launched a drive to increase the number of female officers.

Society is deeply conservative in parts of Indonesia, and some still value female virginity highly.

The issue hit the headlines last year, when the education chief of a city sparked outrage by suggesting that teen girls should undergo virginity tests to enter senior high school.


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