Jakarta. The commander of Indonesia’s armed forces believes that invasive virginity tests for female recruits are a good thing and the only way to gauge the women’s morality.
Asked for his response to growing international condemnation of the practice, Gen. Moeldoko insisted to reporters at the State Palace in Jakarta on Friday that the so-called two-finger test was one of the requirements for women joining the Indonesian Military, or TNI.
“So what’s the problem? It’s a good thing, so why criticize it?” he said.
He conceded, though, that there was no direct link between a woman being a virgin and her abilities as a member of the armed forces, but insisted that virginity was a gauge of a woman’s morality – one of the three key traits he said a woman must have to serve in the TNI, along with high academic aptitude and physical strength.
The virginity test “is a measure of morality. There’s no other way” to determine a person’s morality, Moeldoko claimed.
His statements came a day after the group Human Rights Watch urged Indonesia to abolish the practice, pointing out that international treaties had described it as degrading and cruel.
“The Indonesian armed forces should recognize that harmful and humiliating ‘virginity tests’ on women recruits do nothing to strengthen national security,” said Nisha Varia, HRW’s women’s rights advocacy director.
“President Joko Widodo should set the military straight and immediately abolish the requirement and prevent all military hospitals from administering it,” Varia said in a statement.
The Indonesian Council of Ulema, or MUI, the country’s highest Islamic authority, has also come out in opposition to the practice, saying it goes against Muslim jurisprudence, Tempo reported on Saturday.
Syarifudin Damanhuri, the head of an East Java district chapter of the MUI, suggested a religion test instead, arguing that it would give military recruiters a better profile of an individual’s character than a virginity test ever could.
HRW said it was calling for the support of the International Committee on Military Medicine (ICMM), which will hold its world conference in Indonesia this coming week. The ICMM aims to foster collaboration between members of armed forces’ medical services.
To justify the tests, military officers told female recruits they were crucial to preserving “the dignity and the honor of the nation,” HRW said.
Officers who wish to marry require a letter of recommendation from their commanders, who only issue them upon confirmation that the fiancée has undergone a medical examination, including the “virginity test” at a military hospital.
The tests have been recognized internationally as violations of the right to non-discrimination and the prohibition of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” under international human rights treaties that Indonesia has ratified, HRW said.
Additional reporting from Reuters