Indonesia urged to end discriminatory two-finger virginity test for female security force applicants

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New York based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to order the chiefs of the National Police and Indonesian Military (TNI) to immediately ban virginity testing for female applicants, saying the practice is a form of gender based violence.

The decades old practice that includes a “two-finger” test to determine whether a female applicant’s hymen is intact was degrading and discriminatory, as well as harming women’s equal access to job opportunities, HRW women’s rights advocacy director Nisha Varia said.

“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,” Varia said in a statement on Wednesday.

“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,” she said.

Despite criticism from human rights campaigners, security forces continue to impose the test, classified as psychological examinations, on the grounds that the virginity test was for “mental health and morality reasons”, senior police and military officers told HRW.

All females who took part in the test told HRW that the experience of having doctors inserting two fingers into their vagina to check the level of vaginal laxity was traumatic, painful and embarrassing.

World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines issued in 2014 stated that virginity testing has no scientific validity. The discriminatory practice has also been internationally recognized as a violation of human rights.

The rights group further urged Jokowi to prohibit virginity tests by the Police and TNI, and establish an independent monitoring mechanism to ensure the two institutions comply.

By ending the practice, the Indonesian government would abide by its international human rights obligations as well as honor the goals of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which falls on Nov. 25, HRW said.

“The Indonesian police and military cannot effectively protect all Indonesians, women and men, so long as a mindset of discrimination permeates their ranks,” Varia added.

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