‘Virginity Tests’ Continue To Present A Sexual Violence Problem In Indonesia
Indonesia continues the sexually violent practice of virginity tests despite international pressure to cease the practice.
In 2017, the Indonesian National Police put an end to the intrusive ‘virginity tests’ female applicants were required to endure. However, the discriminatory and often forced examination of women continues according to studies by Sharyn Graham Davies from the Auckland University of Technology who found ‘vaginal and hymen examinations to still be a key part of police recruitment.’
The practice of these ‘tests’ in Indonesia goes back to at least 1965. Human Rights Watch (HRW) spoke to a woman who recalled her 2008 experience, “Entering the virginity test examination room was really upsetting. I feared that after they performed the test I would not be a virgin anymore. It really hurt. My friend even fainted because … it really hurt, really hurt.”
In November 2014 United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) published a clinical handbook entitled Health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence, which emphatically rebuked the practice of such tests stating ‘…there is no place for virginity (or ‘two-finger’) testing; it has no scientific validity.’
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was able to obtain a complaint filed by HRW concerning the ‘two-finger’ testing from earlier this year. An Indonesian woman named Zakia spoke to HRW concerning the incident — which wasn’t overseen by a medical professional, “They didn’t just insert their fingers into my vagina, but also into my anus. They kept probing … it was extremely painful.”
According to the ABC report, women candidates must also have their body measurements recorded, including bust size. Afterward, they must parade in front of a male selection committee who will judge their physical appearance.
“The Indonesian government’s continuing tolerance for abusive ‘virginity tests’ by the security forces reflects an appalling lack of political will to protect the rights of Indonesian women,” Nisha Varia, Women’s Rights Advocacy Director of HRW said in November 2017. She would continue:
Indonesian women who seek to serve their country by joining the security forces shouldn’t have to subject themselves to an abusive and discriminatory ‘virginity test’ to do so. The Indonesian police and military cannot effectively protect all Indonesians, women and men, so long as a mindset of discrimination permeates their ranks.
“If they are no longer virgins, if they are naughty, it means their mentality is not good.”
In comparison, Indonesian military spokesman Fuad Basya defended the practice of assault when speaking to The Guardian, “If they are no longer virgins, if they are naughty, it means their mentality is not good.” However, international organizations continue to rebuke the earlier this month the WHO published a news release calling for an immediate end to the prejudicial practice, “Virginity testing — a gynecological examination conducted under the belief that it determines whether a woman or girl has had vaginal intercourse — must end..” The powerful statement continues:
Virginity testing is a long-standing tradition that has been documented in at least 20 countries spanning all regions of the world. Women and girls are subjected, and often forced, to undergo virginity testing for various reasons. These include requests from parents or potential partners to establish marriage eligibility or from employers for employment eligibility. It is mostly performed by doctors, police officers, or community leaders on women and girls in order to assess their virtue, honour or social value. In some regions, it is common practice for health professionals to perform virginity testing on victims of rape, supposedly to ascertain whether or not rape occurred.
The term “virginity” is not a medical or scientific term. Rather, the concept of “virginity” is a social, cultural and religious construct – one that reflects gender discrimination against women and girls.
The social expectation that girls and women should remain “virgins” (i.e. without having sexual intercourse) is based on stereotyped notions that female sexuality should be curtailed within marriage. This notion is harmful to women and girls globally.
Regarding the practice in Indonesia Veryanto Sitohang, Executive Director of Aliansi Sumut Bersatu, told HRW in November 2014, “…I recommended to the internal team, whose members are all police officers, not to do [the test].” Bersatu began. ” It’s obviously a violation of these young women’s rights. It should be stopped. The internal team said they would consider my input, but that [the test] was one of the criteria established by National Police headquarters. They did it anyway. I wrote my objection. But apparently it did not stop the degrading test.”