Indonesian military still uses ‘virginity tests’ for female recruits, spokesman says – BenarNews
The rule that requires female recruits to the Indonesian armed forces to undergo a virginity test has not changed, an army spokesman said on Friday, after the army chief of staff said last month that the practice was to cease.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Andika Perkasa told regional military commanders in a video conference on July 18 that women who wish to join the military should be tested only for their ability to follow a 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 if so-called virginity tests are still required for new recruits, Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) spokesperson Col. Djawara Whimbo told BenarNews on Friday that “so far , the rule has not changed “.
“A full medical examination of TNI candidates includes a hymen examination,” he said.
“Women are different from men,” he added, without elaborating.
He said the fiancées of military officers were also subjected to a similar test.
But Whimbo said those who failed the hymen test would not automatically be disqualified.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the so-called virginity tests have no scientific merit or clinical indication.
“The appearance of a hymen is not a reliable indication of intercourse, and there is no known test that can prove a history of vaginal intercourse,” the WHO said.
Whimbo rejected the WHO finding.
“WHO has nothing to do with us. We adhere to our Eastern values, ”said Whimbo, an apparent reference to moral attitudes that frown on premarital sex.
Andika, in a mid-July briefing to regional commanders posted on YouTube, said tests that were not relevant to recruiting should no longer be performed.
“The tests for women should be the same as for men, in this case [to test] their ability to undergo basic military training, ”he said.
He also said future wives of military officers would no longer be required to undergo medical tests.
“They are adults, and when they decide to get married, we hope 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 tests performed 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 if candidates’ hymen is intact, according to Andreas Harsono, HRW researcher in Indonesia.
Andreas praised Andika’s apparent order to eliminate virginity testing from the military, which he called “abusive, unscientific and discriminatory”.
“This is good and it should have been done five decades ago,” he said, calling on the Navy and Air Force to take similar action.
“If they want to become a civilized organization, it must be stopped.”
In its 2015 report, HRW cited a military medic in Jakarta who said the test was part of the mandatory physical exams and was administered early in the recruitment process.
The doctor, who requested anonymity from the rights group, said tests took place at military hospitals across the country, with female military candidates examined in large rooms divided into rooms separated by curtains. .
Women make up about 15 percent of the Indonesian military.
National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) chairman Andy Yetriyani said the army chief’s directive was a positive step, but should be formalized.
“We appreciate Andika’s statement, but things like this should be written, to show the seriousness of the military and the military as a whole,” Andy told BenarNews.
Andreas said the virginity test left a deep trauma for those who were subjected to it.
The 20 women interviewed by HRW between 2014 and 2015 cried as they recounted their experiences.
“They were afraid to talk about it because it was a traumatic experience,” Andreas said.
“Most of the women we spoke to were traumatized and said the experience was not pleasant,” she said.
“They remember feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable when their body was seen by other people.”