Human rights organizations are urging Indonesia’s military to end its practice of conducting virginity tests years after the World Health Organization declared they had no scientific validity.
Security forces such as the military and the police regularly carry out the tests on new female recruits, which include the “two-finger tests” to determine whether female applicants’ hymens remain.
“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,” said Nisha Varia, women’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
“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,” she continued. “The Indonesian police and military cannot effectively protect all Indonesia, women and men, so long as a mindset of discrimination permeates their ranks.”
An Indonesian military doctor told Human Rights Watch that senior military figures were aware of the criticisms of the practice, but remained unwilling to abolish the practice.
“The military is a top-down organization,” the doctor said. “We have to follow orders.”
Talking to the Guardian in 2015, military spokesperson Fuad Basya said that the tests were primarily to examine the “mentality” of applications.
“We need to examine the mentality of these applicants. If they are no longer virgins, if they are naughty, it means their mentality is not good,” Basya said. “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.”
The practice is foremost a violation of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture, both of which Indonesia have signed, which prohibits “all acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”
However, any decision on the issue remains at the discretion of President Joko Widodo, who is a known supporter of the practice.
Indonesia has seen an increased human rights crackdown in recent years as hardline Muslims continue to successfully pressure the government into Sharia-related governance.
In January, a group of political parties in the Indonesian parliament proposed a total ban on alcohol, including the production, distribution, and sale of it in the country. Last year, the government also agreed to block dozens of gay websites and apps in the country, as well as a series of news magazine sites tailored to an LGBT audience.
Meanwhile, other countries also criticized for their use of virginity tests include Egypt, India, and Afghanistan.