Indonesia Makes a Sharp U-turn on Virginity Tests

Most students in the world may think that in order to get their high school diploma they would have to meet certain requirements: good grades, good attitude towards school,...

Most students in the world may think that in order to get their high school diploma they would have to meet certain requirements: good grades, good attitude towards school, good relationship with teachers and classmates. In Jember, East Java’s third largest urban area with a population of 300.000, lawmakers made public a draft of a new regulation that introduces another requirement for female students to be high school graduates: a virginity test.

To claim the justice of this regulation, Jember council member Habib Isa Madhi declared that these tests were brought up to decrease the spreading of HIV, which is common in the region, facing a high rate of sexual intercourse among young students. Then again, only schoolgirls were to be submitted to the test.

Not only this procedure is a violation of women’s dignity and a gender issue of discrimination, but also virginity tests have been recognized as a violation of human rights by article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and by article 16 of the Convention against Torture, both ratified by Indonesia.

virginity-testing-protest-photo3Obviously we are witnessing an uprising from human rights associations all over the world; moreover Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy director Phelim Kine claimed that “the proposal was appalling but not surprising”. In fact the virginity test, also known as the “Two-Finger Test” (TFT), is not a new habit in Indonesia, given the fact that it is still used, since 1965, in the recruitment process for female police officers, as stated in the national police job website: “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 in fact not eligible for the job.

HRW is pursuing its fight against virginity tests bringing on the table of discussion the recommendation included in a November 2014 clinical handbook titled “Health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence”, published by the World Health Organization, where it is precisely underlined that “There is no place for virginity (or ‘two-finger’) testing; it has no scientific validity.

Condemnations arrived also from Islamic institutions, the Ulema Council stated that the tests were not compatible with Islam and were discriminating towards young women.

In the end Jember’s council deputy speaker Ayub Junaidi was forced to apologize on behalf of the officials responsible for the proposal to “all women and girls across Indonesia.

A small step against discrimination has been made.

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Francesca Aloisio

Francesca is both an International Relations graduate and a dancer living in Rome. She is particularly interested in international issues, intercultural learning and culture sharing, as well as music and arts. She is currently a consultant for the UN agency IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) in the communication division.
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