Indonesian Military Still Using ‘Virginity Tests’ for Female Recruits, Spokesman Says

Arie Firdaus and Ahmad Syamsudin
Jakarta
2021-08-06
Share
Indonesian Military Still Using ‘Virginity Tests’ for Female Recruits, Spokesman Says Women soldiers march during a parade marking the 74th anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces in Jakarta, Oct. 5, 2019.
[AP]

The rule that requires female recruits of the Indonesian Armed Forces to undergo a virginity test has not changed, a military spokesman said Friday, after the army chief of staff indicated last month that the practice must end.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Andika Perkasa told regional military commanders in a video conference on July 18 that women who wished to join the army must be tested only for their ability to follow basic military training, just like their male counterparts. 

The comments were welcomed this week by activists, including from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which first highlighted the “discriminatory and invasive” practice in 2014.

Asked whether so-called virginity tests were still required for new recruits, Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) spokesman Col. Djawara Whimbo told BenarNews on Friday, “so far, the rule has not changed.”

“A comprehensive medical examination of female TNI candidates includes a hymen examination,” he said.

“Women are different from men,” he added, without elaborating.

He said that the fiancées of military officers were also subjected to a similar test.

But Whimbo said those who failed the hymen test would not be automatically disqualified.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), so-called virginity testing has no scientific merit or clinical indication.

“The appearance of a hymen is not a reliable indication of intercourse, and there is no known examination that can prove a history of vaginal intercourse,” WHO has said.

Whimbo dismissed WHO’s finding.

“WHO has nothing to do with us. We adhere to our eastern values,” Whimbo said, an apparent reference to moral attitudes that frown upon sex before marriage.

Irrelevant

Andika, in a mid-July briefing to regional commanders posted on YouTube, said tests that were irrelevant to the purpose of recruitment must no longer be carried out.

“Tests for women must be the same as those for men, in this case [to test] their ability to follow basic military training,” he said.

He also said that prospective wives of army officers would no longer be required to undergo medical tests.

“They are adults, and when they have decided to get married, we trust that our soldiers are mature enough to decide what to do and what not to do,” he said.

New York-based HRW first published a report on virginity testing carried out by the Indonesian police in 2014. A year later, it published a report on the practice in the Indonesian military.

In 2015, the national police abolished the practice, which typically includes the invasive “two-finger test” to determine whether female applicants’ hymens are intact, according to Andreas Harsono, the HRW researcher in Indonesia.

Andreas welcomed Andika’s apparent order to eliminate the virginity test at the army, which he described as “abusive, unscientific and discriminatory.”

“That’s good and should have been done five decades ago,” he said, calling on the Navy and Air Force to take similar steps.

“If they want to become a civilized organization, it must be stopped.”

In its 2015 report, HRW cited a military doctor in Jakarta who said that the test was part of mandatory physical exams and was given early in the recruitment process.

The doctor, who requested anonymity to the rights group, said the tests occurred in military hospitals across the country, with female military applicants examined in large halls divided into curtain-separated rooms.

Women make up about 15 percent of the Indonesian military.

Traumatic

The chair of the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), Andy Yetriyani, said the army chief’s directive was a positive step, but it should be formalized.

“We appreciate Andika’s statement, but things like that should be put in writing, to show the seriousness of the Army and the military as a whole,” Andy told BenarNews.

Andreas said the virginity test has left deep trauma for those subjected to it.

All 20 women who were interviewed by HRW between 2014 and 2015 cried while recounting their experiences.

“They were afraid to talk about it because it was a traumatic experience,” said Andreas.

Andy concurred.  

“Most of the women we talked to were traumatized and said the experience was not pleasant,” she said.

“They remember feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable when their bodies were seen by other people.”

Add comment

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

View Full Site