The Indonesian government is seeking “creative ways” to boost the number of women in the police and military so it can meet its objective of more female personnel for United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Here’s an idea: Stop inflicting discriminatory “virginity tests” on female applicants to the Indonesian Armed Forces and National Police. The military and police have required such “tests” for decades and they are likely a strong deterrent for women who justifiably feel that an invasive and degrading “two-finger test” is too high a price to pay to serve their country.
Earlier this month, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi promised to address the shortage of female Indonesian UN peacekeepers. Women constitute only about 4 percent of Indonesian military personnel and just 7 percent of police personnel. There are only 81 female police and military personnel out of a total of 2,694 Indonesians deployed to nine separate UN peacekeeping operations around the globe.
The Indonesian National Police have inflicted “virginity tests” on female applicants since at least 1965. All branches of the Indonesian military have used “virginity tests” for decades and, in certain circumstances, also extended the requirement to the fiancées of military officers. Neither current Indonesian Armed Forces chief, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, nor National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian have responded to Human Rights Watch’s repeated calls to ban the practice.
Virginity testing is a form of gender-based violence and is a widely discredited practice. In November 2014, the World Health Organization issued guidelines that stated, “There is no place for virginity (or ‘two-finger’) testing; it has no scientific validity.” “Virginity tests” have been recognized internationally as a violation of human rights, particularly the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 16 of the Convention against Torture, both of which Indonesia has ratified.
If the Indonesian government is serious about boosting the number of female peacekeepers in its ranks, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo should order Indonesia’s police chief and armed forces commander to immediately ban “virginity tests” of female applicants.