The Indonesian government subjects female applicants for Indonesia’s National Police to discriminatory and degrading “virginity tests,” Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch interviewed female police and police applicants in six Indonesian cities who had undergone the test, two of them in 2014. Applicants who “failed” were not necessarily expelled from the force, but all of the women described the test as painful and traumatic. Policewomen have raised the issue with senior police officials, who have at times claimed the practice has been discontinued. But the test is listed as a requirement for women applicants on the official police recruitment website, and Human Rights Watch interviews suggest it is still being widely applied.
“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 Human Rights Watch. “Police authorities in Jakarta need to immediately and unequivocally abolish the test, and then make certain that all police recruiting stations nationwide stop administering it.”
The tests contravene National Police principles that recruitment must be both “nondiscriminatory” and “humane,” and violate the international human rights to equality, nondiscrimination, and privacy. Coerced “virginity tests” can also constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment prohibited under international law.
Between May and October 2014, Human Rights Watch interviewed eight current and former policewomen and applicants, as well as police doctors, a police recruitment evaluator, a National Police Commission member, and women’s rights activists. Interviews were conducted in the cities of Bandung, Jakarta, Padang, Pekanbaru, Makassar, and Medan. All of the women who had undergone the test said it was applied to all other women in their police class as well.
The “virginity tests” are conducted under Chief Police Regulation No. 5/2009 on Health Inspection (Pemeriksaan Kesehatan) Guidelines for Police Candidates. Article 36 of the regulation requires female police academy applicants to undergo an “obstetrics and gynecology” examination. While the regulation does not specify that a “virginity test” is to be administered as part of the exam, two senior policewomen told Human Rights Watch that it has long been the practice. The test is given early in the recruitment process as part of the applicants’ physical exam. Police Medical and Health Center (Pusat Kedokteran dan Kesehatan) personnel conduct the tests primarily in police-operated hospitals. Human Rights Watch found that the examination has included the discredited and degrading “two-finger test” to determine whether female applicants’ hymens are intact.