Indonesian Army Chief Gen. Andika Perkasa told army commanders in July that the required medical check-up in the recruitment process for female officers should be similar to the male medical test, signaling the end of the so-called “virginity test.”
He said applicants should only be assessed on their ability to take part in physical training, adding that the application for male army personnel to get married should now cover only “administrative matters” without requiring a medical check of officers’ fiancées.
This is a reference to an apparent decision to stop the abusive, unscientific, and discriminatory “virginity test” that all branches of the Indonesian military have used for decades for female recruits. The requirement had been extended in some cases to female fiancées of military officers.
“Virginity testing” is a form of gender-based violence and is a widely discredited practice. The testing includes the invasive practice of inserting two fingers into the vagina to supposedly assess whether the woman has previously had sex. 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.”
Human Rights Watch first exposed the use of “virginity tests” by Indonesian security forces in 2014, but while police have ceased the examinations, the government has failed to stop the practice by the military. The Indonesian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Indonesian Medical Association remained silent and never demanded that the military cease inflicting the procedure on female applicants.
Individual doctors, including those in the military, have regularly provided information to Human Rights Watch about the continuing practice. Dozens of women subjected to the “virginity test” when they married into military families in Indonesia also quietly spoke against the practice.
General Perkasa said that the army’s medical officers and hospital directors will inform the commanders about the new procedures.
The army command is doing the right thing. It is now the responsibility of territorial and battalion commanders to follow orders, and recognize the unscientific, rights-abusing nature of this practice. 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.