Indonesia Continues “Virginity Tests” for Female Police

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The Indonesian government continues to conduct mandatory “virginity tests” on all female applicants to the country’s national police force, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch. The longstanding practice continues in accordance with police regulations and despite claims by officials that the inspections–including the “two-finger test”–are no longer applied. Human Rights Watch in their report stated that this practice was in violation of international law, in addition to other criticisms.

“The Indonesian National Police’s use of ‘virginity tests’ is a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women,” said Nisha Varia, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “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.”

The “virginity tests” take place as a matter of law, Human Rights Watch reported. Article 36 of the Chief Police Regulation No. 5/2009 on Health Inspection Guidelines for Police Candidates requires all female police academy applicants to undergo an examination for “obstetrics and gynecology.” This examination continues to include, according to senior police women interviewed by Human Rights Watch, a “virginity test,” and, according to interviews conducted in six major Indonesian cities in 2014, the test had been applied to all women who were in the academy.

The tests take place in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch alleged.

“’Virginity tests’ have been recognized internationally as a violation of human rights, particularly the prohibition against ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 16 of the Convention against Torture, both of which Indonesia has ratified,” stated Human Rights Watch in their report.

The tests also contravene National Police principles, which state that recruitment must be “nondiscriminatory” and “humane.”

Indonesia Continues "Virginity Tests" for Female PoliceIndonesian officials have claimed that the tests are no longer applied. Other claims have been made that steps are being taken to remove the tests, but, according to Human Rights Watch, the rights group has seen little evidence that could support any such claim.

The National Police website continues to state, “In addition to the medical and physical tests, women who want to be policewomen must also undergo virginity tests. So all women who want to become policewomen should keep their virginity.”

Married women are ineligible for the police force.

Indonesia is not the only country with well-documented policies of “virginity tests.” Other nations known for the practice include Egypt, India and Afghanistan. Neither are “virginity tests” only conducted on police applicants in Indonesia; school girls are also subject to the tests, which Human Rights Watch have criticized as being not only discriminatory and degrading, but also subjective and unscientific.

“So-called virginity tests are discriminatory and a form of gender-based violence – not a measure of women’s eligibility for a career in the police,” Varia said. “This pernicious practice not only keeps able women out of the police, but deprives all Indonesians of a police force with the most genuinely qualified officers.”

By Sid Douglas

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