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Indonesia Conducts Virginity Tests on Female Police Recruits

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A new report by Human Rights Watch states that the Indonesian government conducts virginity tests as part of the application process to join the police force.  The requirement to undergo the test is also stated on the official Indonesian National Police website.

The invasive procedure, known as the 'two-finger test' is administered by female medics to check if the hymen is intact. Applicants are forced to strip naked and undergo the procedure as part of the physical examination.

A 24 year old woman who took the test in 2008 said, "I feared that after they performed the test I would not be a virgin anymore. They inserted two fingers. It really hurt. My friend even fainted because … it really hurt, really hurt."

All of the recruits and policewomen that Human Rights Watch interviewed described the process as humiliating and painful.

Nisha Varia, the associate women's rights director at Human Rights Watch said, "This testing is invasive and abusive and it has no bearing on their ability to be a good police officer."

High Commissioner Rumiati, the police psychologist now teaching at the Graduate School of Police Sciences in Jakarta, told Human Rights Watch that when she lobbied internally within the police force to have the practice stopped, her male colleagues retorted, "Do we want to have prostitutes joining the police force?"

This is not the first time that virginity testing in Indonesia has made international news. In August 2013 the head of the education agency announced plans to force every female high school student to be checked every year as part of the entry requirements. He said "This is for their own good." The idea was pulled after stiff opposition from lawmakers and education activists.  

Virginity testing has long been discredited and is not regarded as a reliable. Furthermore, women who failed the test were not always expelled from the force, showing that it is not even regarded as necessary by the police force itself.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country and widely regarded to be moderate. However there are strong Islamist undercurrents within the country. Female genital mutliation (FGM), despite being banned, is widespread and there are fears that the practice is growing in popularity. In the staunchly conservative province of Aceh, a law was proposed in September that would institute a penalty for homosexual sex of 100 lashes. 

Indonesia has a police force of 400,000, of which 3% are women. The government aims to increase this to 5% by December with a national recruitment drive underway.  

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David Harris

David Harris is the editor in chief of Clarion Project.

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