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Female Police Candidates in Indonesia are Forced to Undergo Virginity Exams, but Authorities Deny Discrimination

Human Rights Watch is calling for an end to the "two finger" virginity tests women must undergo during health exams for prospective officers in the country.
November 20, 2014, 12:20am
Imagen vía Reuters/Darren Whiteside

Commanders in Indonesia's National Police has an invasive vetting process for prospective new female officers. It's called the "two finger test." Designed to determine whether a women is a virgin, the test is degrading and painful, as well as discriminatory, since the police do not subject men to virginity exams, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Tuesday.

"Even just entering the room was very scary because we had to undress while there were 20 people in the room," an unnamed 24-year-old woman who took the test said in testimony in the group's report. "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."


Horrifyingly, the test is common around the world.

Doctors conducted virginity tests on female protesters arrested in Egypt in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring, according to Amnesty International. In Afghanistan, women accused of moral crimes are often forced to undergo virginity tests, HRW reported. It's common in South Africa among families who want to make sure their daughters are eligible for marriage. Until India outlawed it in March, doctors there routinely conducted the test on alleged rape victims. Turkey banned the practice in 2002.

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"It goes back to this age-old notion that women's bodies are not theirs, that women's virginity is a concern of men, of the patriarchy, of the community, of the authority," Françoise Girard, president of the International Women's Health Coalition, told VICE News. "It can be used to discredit them, to impair their mobility, to deny them work and education."

What's more, the tests are useless, Girard added. In theory, the test aims to tell whether a woman's hymen is intact. But some girls are born without hymens. And hymens can break prior to having sex for the first time. "It's absolutely impossible to tell whether a woman has ever had sex through a gynecological exam," she said.

Along with the report, HRW has called for Indonesia to end virginity testing in the National Police.


"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," Nisha Varia, associate women's rights director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

In response to HRW's report, a spokesman offered a partial defense of the tests that rested on interesting logic.

"There is a complete health test for both female and male candidates including checking reproductive organs and the virginity test for women will be a part of that routine," National Police spokesman Ronny Sompie said in an interview with Reuters. "But there has never has been a rule that requires policewomen to be virgins, so there is no discrimination."

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In Indonesia, the test isn't necessarily discouraging women from joining the police, either. Human Rights Watch admits that commanders have recruited at least 7,000 women this year in a campaign to double the number of female cops in the National Police to 21,000, or 5 percent of the total, by the end of the year.

Girard wasn't surprised. In many societies, the tests are widely accepted, so it's hard for women to refuse them.

Women who spoke to Human Rights Watch agreed.

"The selection committee told the applicants just before the 'internal examination' that we could resign from the selection process," said an anonymous 18-year-old in testimony in the group's report. "I felt I had no power to object because if I refused to undergo the virginity test, I would not be able to enter the police force."

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Follow John Dyer on Twitter: @johnjdyerjr