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Indonesia Urged To Stop 'Virginity Tests' For Female Police Recruits

Only some of these officers, seen in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on Jan. 13, are exempt from a "virginity test." Human Rights Watch wants Indonesia to scrap the practice for its female police recruits.
Hotli Simanjuntak
Only some of these officers, seen in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on Jan. 13, are exempt from a "virginity test." Human Rights Watch wants Indonesia to scrap the practice for its female police recruits.

A human rights group is calling on Indonesia to scrap "virginity tests" given to female police recruits.

"The Indonesian National Police's use of 'virginity tests' is a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women," Nisha Varia, associate women's rights director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "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."

Human Rights Watch interviewed female police officers and police applicants in six cities across Indonesia who were subjected to the "two-finger test" to determine if they were virgins. Two of the women were given the tests this year. All of them described it as painful and traumatic.

"Failing" the test does not necessarily mean expulsion from the police force, the group said, but added: "Policewomen have raised the issue with senior police officials, who have at times claimed the practice has been discontinued. But the test is listed as a requirement for women applicants on the official police recruitment website, and Human Rights Watch interviews suggest it is still being widely applied."

The group noted that medical experts have dismissed the "two-finger test," which is meant to determine whether the hymen is intact, as useless.

"Entering the virginity test examination room was really upsetting," one woman, who underwent the test in 2008, told the group. "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."

An Indonesian police spokesman quoted by The Associated Press said the tests were aimed at ensuring that recruits didn't have sexually transmitted diseases.

"All of this is done in a professional manner and did not harm the applicants," the spokesman said.

International conventions, including those ratified by Indonesia, recognize the tests as a violation of human rights.

Human Rights Watch said "virginity tests" were also used by police in other countries, including Afghanistan, Egypt and India.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.

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