Indonesian Army Ends Degrading ‘Virginity Tests’ on Female Cadets

Human rights groups have called the tests “abusive, unscientific and discriminatory”.
Female soldiers; parade; Indonesia
Female soldiers march in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo: Achmad Ibrahim/AP 

The Indonesian army has announced the end of its controversial “virginity tests” for female cadets and recruits, a move welcomed by feminists and human rights groups who have campaigned against the practice for decades.

The tests have been performed since 1965 despite international outcry. They remain in use in the country’s navy and air force.

Advertisement

The invasive procedure is known in Indonesia as “the two finger test,” in which doctors insert two fingers into a woman’s vagina to supposedly assess whether her hymen is still intact. The military previously defended the practice as being necessary to determine a soldier’s morality. Those declared “not virgins” would then be rejected for recruitment.

On Tuesday, army general and chief of staff Andika Perkasa told reporters that the tests would no longer take place. “Whether the hymen was ruptured or partially ruptured was part of the examination... now there’s no more of that,” he said.

Andika said last week that selection processes for both male and female soldiers must be equal. 

For years, Indonesian doctors have stated that the virginity tests did not have any scientific basis. Human rights groups and feminists, who had campaigned against the practice for decades, welcomed the move by the military. “There was never any need for the tests,” Andy Yentriyani, head of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, told Reuters.

 

In 2018, the World Health Organization called for the elimination of such tests, calling it a “violation of the human rights of girls and women”.

In a report that celebrated the military’s move, Jakarta-based researcher Andreas Harsono at Human Rights Watch wrote that the army “was doing the right thing” in ending the “abusive, unscientific, and discriminatory” tests.

“It is now the responsibility of territorial and battalion commanders to follow orders, and recognize the unscientific, rights-abusing nature of this practice,” he said. “Increased pressure also needs to be focused on the top commanders of the navy and the air force to follow the army’s lead, and end this practice.” 

Follow Heather Chen on Twitter