Indonesia President Joko Widodo’s government has come under renewed pressure from human rights activists after a lawmaker said last week that all school girls would be required to take a virginity test in order to graduate.
Habib Isa Mahdi of the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) said that new ‘good conduct’ regulations are being drafted by Jember Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) which include the virginity test requirement.
The council, however, was quick to distance itself from the proposal, with deputy speaker Ayub Junaidi apologizing for the comments and saying no such regulation was being considered.
“On behalf of the Jember Consultative Council we’d like to apologize to the public, especially to all women and girls across Indonesia,” the lawmaker was quoted as saying by Kompas.com.
Human rights activists were also quick to condemn the proposals. Writing on Human Rights Watch’s ‘Dispatches’ blog this week Phelim Kine, deputy director of HRW’s Asia Division, wrote:
A proposal unveiled last week explicitly aims to bar female high school students who have engaged in premarital sex from receiving the high school diploma they have earned. Boys are exempt from the requirement. The initiative is appalling – but not surprising.
President Joko Widodo should send a loud and unambiguous message forbidding “virginity tests” by local government as well as the Indonesian military, police, and civil service.
Andreas Harsono, a Jakarta-based researcher with Human Rights Watch, told the Jakarta Globe this week: “The virginity test is an unscientific, cruel, degrading and discriminatory treatment that a woman should never experience.”
The virginity testing issue is not new to Indonesia, and was condemned in the World Health Organisations’ ‘Health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence’ handbook, released last year.
In 2013, Muhammad Rasyid, head of the education office in South Sumatra’s district of Prabumulih, also proposed virginity tests for female students, sparking sharp criticism on social media and from many Indonesian officials. Then Education Minister Mohammad Nuh described it as a violation of common principles.
Virginity, or ‘two finger’, testing, also made the news in November last when it emerged that female police recruits were exposed to the test, sparking international criticism.