JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s police force came under fire on Tuesday for administering “virginity tests” for female applicants, a practice that was banned four years ago.
Female candidates in major cities across the world’s fourth most populous country were still subjected to virginity tests as part of a routine physical exam, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
“The Indonesian National Police’s use of virginity tests is a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women,” said Nisha Varia, associate women’s rights director at HRW.
“Applicants who failed the test were not necessarily expelled from the force, but women described the test as painful and traumatic.”
The practice, which is supposed to determine if the candidate’s hymen is intact, has been widely discredited as unscientific and degrading.
A spokesman for the national police confirmed virginity tests still happened but that there was no requirement for female candidates to be virgins.
“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,” said Ronny Sompie.
“But there has never has been a rule that requires policewomen to be virgins, so there is no discrimination.”
One candidate, who had undergone the test and asked to remain anonymous, said she agreed with it in principle.
“I don’t have a problem with the test...but the way in which it was conducted, with many people in one room, violated our privacy,” she said.
A police recruitment website accessed this week states: “All women who want to sign up to be a police officer must safeguard their virginity.”
But Sompie said the website was not an official website that reflected police policy.
Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie