Indonesia’s female police officers subjected to ‘virginity tests’

Women hoping to join Indonesia’s police force are subjected to ‘two-finger virginity tests’, a human rights group has found

By Radhika Sanghani
5:09PM GMT 18 Nov 2014

Women who want to join Indonesia’s national police force are forced to have “virginity tests”, a human rights group has found.

The “two-finger test” involves a medical expert putting two fingers into a woman’s vagina to determine whether her hymen is still intact.

Policewomen have said they’ve raised the issue with senior police officials, who have at times claimed that the practice has been discounted, but Human Rights Watch has found it is still ongoing.

It is also listed as a requirement for female applicants on the official police recruitment website, which states that “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 not eligible for the job.

Human Rights Watch interviewed current and former policewomen and applicants earlier this year, and found that the degrading treatment was ongoing.

All of the women who had undergone the test said it was applied to all other women in their police class as well.

“My group of about 20 girls was asked to enter the hall and was asked to take off our clothes, including our bras and underpants,” a 19-year-old woman told the organisation.

“It was humiliating. Only those who had menstruation can keep [wearing] underpants… A female doctor did the virginity test … the ‘two-finger’ test.

“I don’t want to remember those bad experiences. It was humiliating. Why should we take off our clothes in front of strangers? Yes, [the virginity testers] were women, but they were total strangers. It was discriminatory. It is not necessary. I think it should be stopped.”

A 24-year-old interviewee said: “I feared that after they performed the test I would not be a virgin anymore.

“They inserted two fingers. It really hurt. My friend even fainted because … it really hurt, really hurt.”

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

“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.”

Although a number of women said they complained to their superiors about the exam, and a former head of police personnel agreed to abolish the test in 2010, it continues to be practised in the same way it has for decades.

One woman, High Commissioner Rumiati, the police psychologist now teaching at the Graduate School of Police Sciences in Jakarta, said she “underwent the virginity text” in 1984.

“Is there scientific evidence that a woman who is not a virgin will be less productive than a virgin?” she said.

“Is there scientific evidence that a woman who is not a virgin will be automatically worse than a virgin?

“The meeting concluded with General Sigit asking that the test be stopped. I don’t know why it’s still taking place.”

Human Rights Watch says that “virginity tests” have been recognised internationally as a violation of human rights, particularly the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” under article seven of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 16 of the Convention against Torture, both of which Indonesia has ratified.