Indonesia criticised over virginity tests for female police officers

Indonesia’s national police have been urged to halt virginity tests for women applying to join the force in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, with Human Rights Watch saying the practice is both harmful and humiliating. The rights group said women applicants are required to be both unmarried and virgins, and the virginity test is still widely used despite the insistence of some senior police officials that the practice has been discontinued. In a series of interviews with HRW, young women—including some who underwent the test as recently as this year—described the procedure as painful and traumatic.

I don’t want to remember those bad experiences. It was humiliating. Why should we take off our clothes in front of strangers? It is not necessary. I think it should be stopped.

A 19-year-old-woman who took the test in the city of Pekanbaru, on western Sumatra island, and whose identity was not disclosed

The women told how they were forced to strip naked before female medics gave them a “two-finger test”, to see if their hymens were intact, a practice described by HRW as archaic and discredited. The tests contravene the police’s own guidelines on recruitment and violate international human rights to equality, non-discrimination and privacy, HRW said. Police spokesman Ronny Sompie said a “comprehensive health test” was carried out on all applicants, and officials wanted to ensure that candidates were free from sexually transmitted diseases. He said the discovery that a woman was not a virgin did not necessarily mean she would fail the application process.

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.

Nisha Varia