A discriminatory practice that humiliates women: virginity tests that have been described as painful and traumatic

It’s the 21st century and equality between women and men is not even close to happening. While some parts of the world celebrate the fact that women can vote, work, and are becoming CEOs and heads of important multinationals and big companies, there is another small but significant part that still treats women with no respect.

The latest news about this disrespectful treatment came from the Indonesian government, when Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that women are required to go through a invasive and degrading “virginity test” as part of a recruitment process to enter the National Police. To become a policewoman in Indonesia, the candidate must be virgin. Married women are not even eligible to apply.

According to HRW, the condition of the women having the hymen intact is discriminatory, thus is contradictory to the principles of national police that attests both “nondiscriminatory” and “humane” recruitment process. In fact, this discriminatory treatment is prohibited under international law.

Testimonials given by women who had taken the test show how traumatising the procedure is. Recalling her test in 2008, one woman told HRW how upsetting it was to enter the examination room and be asked to get naked in front of strangers, even though they were all women. She also said, “my friend even fainted because it really hurts.”

Not only is it the physical pain in question, but also the humiliation. This is a process that stays in someone’s memory for a long time. In the first place, what does the presence or absence of the hymen and the fact that the woman is no longer a virgin have to do with her performance as a policewoman? Why do women have to pass through a degrading and humiliating test while men are not questioned about their virginity? And why does having a partner affect a woman’s performance in the force? This method does not measure women’s eligibility and efficiency of a career as a police officer.

For the Indonesian National Police, there is no reason to oppose the exam and claims that the test is being used to check if the applicants have a sexually transmitted infection. Local and international rights groups are in favour of abolishing the law.

The equality between men and women is not even close to existing. The practice is used not only to enter the force but also in other circumstances such as weddings — a practice also noticed in certain Muslim countries.

— Mariana Fernandes, Correspondent (Our World)

Image Courtesy: Day Donaldson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/thespeakernews/15640061810), Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic | Flickr