An educational agency in Indonesia — perceived to be a moderate Muslim country – has plans to conduct virginity tests on 16-18 year old girls as part of its senior high school admission requirements.
H.M. Rasyid, the chief of Prabumulih’s Education Agency, said that increasing instances of premarital sex and prostitution among female students prompted the move.
"We’re planning on conducting virginity tests for senior high school students," Rasyid said. "We have proposed it in the 2014 regional budget. If it is possible, the virginity tests will be carried out next year."
"This is for their own good," Rasyid said. "Every woman has the right to virginity … we expect students not to commit negative acts."
The plan – which would require each student to have her hymen examined every year of high school – was supported by local politicians as a way to decrease what is viewed in this conservative country as “rampant” promiscuity in the area.
"Virginity is sacred, thus it's a disgrace for a [female] student to lose her virginity before getting married," Hasrul Azwar, a member of the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), was quoted as saying in the Jakarta Post.
The plan, however, has drawn the ire of legislators and education experts, who say that such an examination is a violation of personal space and an obstruction to a student’s right to an education. Two similar plans were proposed in Indonesia, one in West Java in 2007 and another in Sumatra in 2010, but shelved after public disapproval.
Dedi Gumilar, a lawmaker from the House of Representatives Commission X, which oversees educational matters, criticized the plan and questioned its constitutionality.
"Do we have a law stating that students must be holy? It’s written in the country’s constitution that every citizen has the right to education," he said.
Deputy chair of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, Masruchah said, "Virginity is a personal problem, and a person has the right over their own body. The [Prabumulih] Education Agency has no right to control a student’s body."
Masruchah said that a student’s morality should not be validated by whether or not they have had sexual intercourse. She advised Rasyid to consider including sexual education in the school’s curriculum instead of virginity tests.
"What if a student was a rape victim and failed the test?" Masruchah said. "It is possible for students to lose their virginity due to accidents."
Aris Merdeka Sirait of the National Commission for Child Protection said the plan was "just aimed for popularity." She said that, "Loss of virginity is not merely because of sexual activities. It could be caused by sports or health problems and many other factors," Sirait said. "We strongly oppose this very excessive move."
"It’s overrated. Morality cannot be determined by [a student's] genitals," he said. "What will they do with the test results? Are they going to reveal which students are not virgins?"
In a statement, The Woman Crisis Center (WCC) South Sumatra said the virginity test violated human rights because it was a private matter. "It’s harassment against women. The government should consider the impact of such a test on students," said the center’s chairwoman, Yeni Roslaini.