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    Nov 19, 2014

    Stop virginity tests for women applicants, Jakarta cops urged


    HUMAN Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Indonesia's national police to halt "discriminatory" virginity tests for women applying to join the force in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

    The rights group said women applicants are required to be both unmarried and virgins, and the virginity test is still widely conducted despite the insistence of some senior police officials that the practice has been discontinued.

    In a series of interviews with HRW, young women - including some who underwent the test as recently as this year - described the procedure as painful and traumatic.

    "I don't want to remember those bad experiences. It was humiliating," said one 19-year-old woman who took the test in Pekanbaru.

    "Why should we take off our clothes in front of strangers? It is not necessary. I think it should be stopped."

    Nisha Varia, associate women's rights director at HRW, described the tests as "a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women".

    "The 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," she said.

    The tests contravene the police force's own guidelines on recruitment and violate international human rights to equality, non-discrimination and privacy, HRW said.

    The police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    While senior police officials have insisted in recent years that virginity tests for female applicants have been stopped, HRW said that a posting on the force's website this month noted that female applicants must undergo the procedure.

    Women currently make up about 3 per cent of the 400,000-strong force, HRW said, but added that the police had launched a drive to increase the number of female officers.

    Indonesian society is deeply conservative in parts of the country, and some still value female virginity highly. The issue hit the headlines last year, when the education chief of a city sparked outrage by suggesting that teenage schoolgirls should undergo virginity tests to enter senior high school.