Indonesia Under Fire for Virginity Tests on Female Military Recruits

AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim
AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim

Indonesia is facing international backlash after it was revealed the government requires female military recruits to undergo virginity tests. It is the second time in the past 6 months human rights organizations put pressure on the country to drop these tests.

“We need to examine the mentality of these applicants,” explained Indonesian military spokesman Fuad Basya. “If they are no longer virgins, if they are naughty, it means their mentality is not good. We will continue to carry out the test because to be a military person, the most important thing is your mentality. Physical and intellectual requirements are secondary.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the female recruits, along with fiancées of military officers, must submit to a “two-finger” test to make sure the hymen is still intact. Those who failed did not face punishment, “but all of the women described the test as painful, embarrassing, and traumatic.” From HRW:

A military doctor at a military hospital in Jakarta told Human Rights Watch that the test is part of the mandatory military exam. It is given early in the recruitment process as part of the applicants’ physical exam. The doctor, who requested anonymity due to concerns about reprisals, said the tests occur in military hospitals across the country with female military applicants tested en masse in large halls divided into curtain-separated examination rooms. Female military physicians typically conduct the test, although one woman told Human Rights Watch that a man administered the procedure on her.

Officers who wish to marry require a letter of recommendation from their commanders, who only issue such letters upon confirmation that the respective officer’s fiancée has undergone a medical examination, including the “virginity test,” at a military hospital.

Female military recruits said that military officers informed them that the tests were crucial to preserving “the dignity and the honor of the nation.” A retired air force officer wondered how she could “defend the honor of our nation if we cannot defend our own honor” by undergoing “virginity tests.” Two military wives said that they were told that “virginity tests” helped stabilize “military families,” in which the husbands often travel for months.

A few Indonesian women chose to speak out against the practice to HRW. One woman said she was “shocked” to find out the military assigned a male doctor to perform the test. She “felt humiliated” with “mixed feelings.” A female physician in Jakarta quit after she performed many tests on females. She described it as “torture.” The experience was so traumatic for one woman that she could not make love to her new husband on their honeymoon. It took her two months to recover.

HRW released a report in November 2014 about Indonesia’s virginity test for female civil servants at the Institute of Public Administration. Females also testified that they were “painful and traumatic.” The test consists of an “obstetrics and gynecology exam,” which includes the “’two-finger test’ to determine whether the female applicants’ hymens are intact.”

Indonesian Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo announced in December the country will stop administering the tests.

“A woman is not a virgin can be due [sic] to several reasons, such as a fall,” said Tjahjo. “This should not be a measure. It is a pity that just because of that a woman fails to qualify, even though she is competent.”


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