Katharina R. Lestari and Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
Updated: November 17, 2014 10:59 PM GMT
Policewomen stand guard at a rally in Jakarta earlier this month (Photo by Ryan Dagur)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) today urged the Indonesia National Police to immediately abolish a controversial virginity test given to female applicants during the recruitment process.
“The Indonesian National Police’s use of virginity tests is a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women,” Nisha Varia, associate women’s rights director at HRW, said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“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,” she added.
According to the New York-based rights group, which interviewed several female police and applicants in six cities in the country that had undergone the test, policewomen have also raised the issue with senior police officials.
While police spokesmen have denied that the practice is ongoing, HRW said they have seen little evidence that the Indonesia’s National Police have taken steps to stop the test.
Indeed, the national police website states that “in addition to the medical 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 to apply.
Sri Rumiati, a police psychologist now teaching at the Graduate School of Police Sciences in Jakarta, recalled that she underwent the test when she joined the force via student military service in 1984. She was 27 at that time.
“I didn’t know what it was about. It was the first time for me to have such a test. So I just went through it,” she told ucanews.com.
“It was like a gynecology test. The doctor was a woman. I was told to take off my clothes and then sit on a chair with my legs up open. I had the ‘two-finger’ test. I felt uncomfortable… [I didn’t understand] why I had to undergo this test,” she said.
After joining a course held in 2003 by the Ford Foundation, Rumiati had a better understanding about regulations including the 1984 law on the ratification of the Convention on the Eliminations of All Forms of Discriminations against Women (CEDAW) and the 1999 law on human rights.
“Around 2007, at a meeting talking about the recruitment process, I questioned the test. Why was it applied? We, the police, have to uphold the existing laws in our country,” she said.
She even asked a doctor during the meeting whether the test was also applied to male applicants or not. “If it was not applied to male applicants, why it should be applied to female applicants?” she asked.
She said she didn’t find any scientific evidence showing that a virgin woman will be less productive than a virgin. “I never heard about it,” she continued.
Tumbu Saraswati from the National Commission on Violence against Women also questioned the test.
“Does it have something to do with the policewomen’s morality? I mean, policewomen who are virgin have stronger morality than those who are not virgin?” she told ucanews.com.
“What if female applicants are not virgin because they are victims of rapes or accidents? Therefore, the test is a form of injustice,” she said.
The test must be stopped. “It creates an image among the society that it is only virgins who can be policewomen,” she added.
National Police spokesman Inspector General Ronny F. Sompie insisted the test isn’t to check virginity.
“What we do in the recruitment test is, among others, to have a general medical checkup including the reproduction system. The aim is, first, to make sure that candidates will not put a risk to others when attending the education program and doing the physical exercise. Second, it aims to prevent other candidates from being contaminated,” he told ucanews.com.
“I assure you that there is no virginity test. I have confirmed this with the National Police’s human resources assistant. Once again, there is no virginity test as there is no difference between virgin and not virgins,” he said.
But HRW Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said he believed there was no valid reason to carry out the gynecological exam — whether it is in fact a virginity test or not.
“Some say it is to check leucorrhea. It is absurd. It is unscientific.”
He suggested that the National Police should issue a written regulation to stop the test.
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