A new report by Human Rights Watch is condemning a long-standing practice among Indonesia’s police forces in which women who wish to serve are subjected to an invasive “virginity test” meant to identify the suitability of a woman to work as a police officer.
As NPR notes, the virginity test is a regular practice for all women who enter that nation’s police force. According to women interviewed by Human Rights Watch who underwent the experience, doctors use two fingers to determine whether the woman in question is still a virgin. Most medical professionals in the West have discarded the test as useless, yet it persists in many parts of the world, including Afghanistan, India, and Egypt.
NPR adds that, according to Human Rights Watch, “failing” the test does not actually disqualify any of the women from being on the police force, which raises even more questions regarding the validity of this procedure. The human rights group notes that “virginity” if officially listed as a requirement to be a female police officer on the national police website, meaning the test is necessary to graduate into the police force. As CNN explains:
“In addition to the other medical and physical examinations. Women who want to become policewomen are to undergo a virginity test. Policewomen must keep their virginity,” the informational page states. It ends the section with a cheery “thank you” and a smiley-face emoticon.
Speaking to CNN, a spokesman for the Indonesia police force claimed that both men and women must undergo health examinations involving genital check-ups. The virginity check-up, he claimed, was necessary for the “completeness” of the exam, and that the major objective of this exam for both men and women is to ensure that “they do not possess any communicable diseases that will not allow them to perform maximally as trained police personnel.” He did not mention any equivalent virginity tests for men, though a similarly invasive and painful test has been administered in Egypt to men suspected of homosexuality.
Spokesman Maj. Gen. Ronny Sompie insisted in response to the report that people should not “respond negatively” to virginity tests, as “All of this is done in a professional manner and did not harm the applicants.”
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, recently began a campaign to increase the number of women working as police officers. Currently, Al Jazeera reports, three percent of the nation’s 400,000 police officers are women. The new recruitment campaign, human rights advocates argue, make it especially important that the international community condemn these virginity tests.