Indonesia’s army stops ‘virginity tests’ on female recruits

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2017, file photo, female members of Indonesian Army show their martial arts skills during a parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten, Indonesia. Human rights groups welcomed Indonesia's decision to stop abusive "virginity tests" on female recruits seven years after the World Health Organization declared they had no scientific validity. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana, File)
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Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Human rights groups welcomed Indonesia’s decision to stop abusive “virginity tests” on female army recruits seven years after the World Health Organization declared they had no scientific validity.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Andika Perkasa said the army will no longer subject women to invasive tests in which the inspectors used their fingers to assess whether the hymen was intact.

He said applicants should only be assessed on their ability to take part in physical training and that the military would emphasize whether they have color blindness and the condition of their spines and hearts to ensure they are healthy and will not encounter life-threatening medical issues.

“These improvements make us focused, effective and precise, and (ensure) that we have direction,” Perkasa told reporters on Tuesday during annual U.S.-Indonesia joint military drills in North Sulawesi’s Minahasa district.

He said the army’s hospital directors and medical officers have been informed of the new procedures since May.

WHO in its 2014 clinical guidelines for health care of sexually abused women said the so-called “virginity test” lacks any scientific basis.

Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono called for increased pressure on Indonesia’s navy and air force commanders to end the practice as well.

“The army command is doing the right thing,” Harsono said in a statement received by The Associated Press on Thursday. “It is now the responsibility of territorial and battalion commanders to follow orders, and recognize the unscientific, rights-abusing nature of this practice.”

Human Rights Watch previously found that applicants who were deemed to have “failed” the test were not necessarily penalized but all of those subjected to it said it was painful, embarrassing and traumatic.

Human Rights Watch has also documented the use of such tests by security forces in Egypt, India and Afghanistan and criticized calls for virginity tests for Indonesian school girls.

It said the Indonesian military and police imposed the tests for decades and sometimes tested the fiancees of military officers. Indonesian police ended the practice in 2018.