In a concerning violation of female soldiers’ reproductive and human rights, Indonesia’s military reportedly continues to conduct invasive “virginity tests” on women recruits, despite a 2014 statement by the World Health Organization that such examinations have “no scientific validity.”  Human Rights Watch made the allegation in a Nov. 23 special report, citing “senior military and police officers with knowledge of the ‘virginity testing’ policy.”

Indonesian officials purport a “two-finger test” that assesses a woman’s hymen can accurately indicate whether she is a virgin, if she is pregnant and how mentally sound she is.  As Fuad Basya, a spokesman for the military, said in 2015, “If they are no longer virgins, if they are naughty, it means their mentality is not good.”

Such attitudes, which equate virginity with morality, may foster a toxic culture surrounding sexuality.  Indeed, an August editorial VICE editorial chronicles the challenges of obtaining emergency contraception as an unmarried woman in Indonesia, including “slut-shaming pharmacists, slow-a** clinics, and weird WhatsApp conversations.”

There is no equivalent virginity assessment for male recruits, and even military officers’ female fiancées are sometimes subjected to the testing.  According to HRW, the practice has occurred within the Indonesian military “for decades.”  The issue is unfortunately not confined to Indonesia; the AP reports virginity testing is also conducted by “security forces in Egypt, India and Afghanistan.”

In its report, HRW called upon Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, to end the practice, citing human rights frameworks and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25.

“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 HRC women’s rights advocacy director Nisha Varia.

Photo courtesy of: Human Rights Watch

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