© 2016 Beawiharta/Reuters
We live 2018, and we still face the immoral practice of obligatory two-finger virginity tests for female applicants to the Indonesian National Armed Forces and National Police. Put aside the question why it is any of The Indonesian government’s business if a female candidate or the girlfriend of a male candidate is virgin yes or no. Fact is that the test is meaningless. It proofs nothing in regard to virginity. It only reflects an appalling lack of political will to protect the rights of Indonesian women. In fact it’s one of the many ways that Indonesian politicians use to make themselves popular with the conservative Muslim community of the country. I tended to call them ignorant. But to be honest, I don’t think they are. I think they are very well aware that the test is meaningless and abusive but they simple don’t care as long as it serves them better to support this test.
This is the story of Sekar:
I am Sekar, a 17 year old girl that time. It was my father’s dream that his daughter joins the National Police. I was raised in Indonesian and Muslim tradition. I’m obedient to my parents and eager to make my father proud of me. Part of application is to undergo a medical examination. So when the day came I went to the place where the examinations take place. I met many girls my age, most nervous as I was. After introduction the registration took place. Start with a general investigation. Height en weight were measured by nurses and entered in our records. They also checked if my molar teeth are grown yet or not. Then we were told we will see Dr Cabul and he will take care of the physical examination. When it is my turn I was directed to the office of Dr. Cabul and told to undress and wait for the doctor. I was in shock. Undress totally? Not even allowed to keep my bra and panties? The nurse reacted moody and snarl at me that she was clear enough in her instructions, yes totally nude and hurry up please. I started to shake for fear. I’ve never been nude in front of a man in whole my life before. I never showed myself without my hijab when not home. And now I’m forced to show myself nude to a stranger. Scared and nervous and totally ashamed I undress and wait for the doctor to come and see me. I don’t dear to sit down and stand in a corner of the room while waiting. Then the doctor came in, watching my body unabashed. I feel how my cheeks got on fire and have no idea how to behave. The doctor took all time while I stood naked and ashamed in front of him, shy with my attitude. The doctor said to me in Bahasa: “udahlah tidak payah malu-malu sama saja pun bentuk kalian semua,tidak ada bedanya, tidak usah sok-sok malu”( ahh enough, don't be shy, the body shape of all of you is the same, no difference, no need to be shy). He even made compliments to me about the beauty of my nude body and the size of my breast. He especially liked my nipples he said. From other girls I heard later that the doctor was flirtatious to them as well. Then finally the doctor told me to take place at the gynecological examination chair. He came and took my legs and put them into braces. I was sitting there, my legs widely spread and my private parts openly exposed to him. I was praying to end this, wishing the floor would open and swallow me forever. The doctor took a stool and sit between my legs. He wears gloves and touches my vagina now. Use his one hand to spread my labia. Then totally unexpected he inserted two fingers into my vagina and started to examine my inside. The brutal insertion was very painful. The only thing I could think of is; how can I stop this, I don’t want this to happen to me. The doctor took his time and explained he check for my hymen to be in tact or not. When he finally was satisfied with the results, I was thinking that his abusive actions would end now. But then he stand next to me and started to touch my breast. Claiming he does it to detect cancer of breast. He squeezed and touched my breast intensively. It was painful and embarrassing, but I felt I have no choice then to undergo it because I did not want to disappoint my father.
I’m some years older now but still suffer the consequences of what happened to me. I understand now that this examination is not legitimate and very abusive. In fact I feel that I’m abused and raped by Dr. Cabul. His behavior however stays unpunished as he is protected by senior officers. That makes it extra hard to deal with.
The story of Sekar ends here.
The names of the people involved are changed to protect their privacy but I know their names. Sekar told me that she failed to join police because her molar teeth not grown then. Many candidates paid Dr. Cabul so they can join the National Police and pass the medical test. Dr. Cabul is no longer in charge of medical examination of female candidates. He is promoted since and much higher in rank now. These days’ conservative Muslim politicians even ask for introduction of these abusive virginity tests for all female high school students. I wonder if they have any compassion with the girls.
Human Rights Watch:
Human Rights Watch asks again in letters sent on February 20, 2018. Indonesian medical associations should publicly denounce so-called virginity tests obligatory for female applicants to the Indonesian National Armed Forces and National Police. Virginity testing is a form of gender-based violence and has been widely discredited, including by the World Health Organization.
The security forces continue to impose these cruel and discriminatory tests, which are officially classified as psychological examinations, for mental health and morality reasons.
An Indonesian military doctor told that senior military personnel were well-aware of the arguments against virginity tests, but were unwilling to abolish them. The doctor suggested that stopping the tests required the direct and explicit intervention of the Indonesian Armed Forces commander to order an end to the practice. The military is a top-down organization. We have to follow orders.
The finger test is supposed to assess whether girls and women are virgins or habituated to sexual intercourse. Yet it does none of this. Contrary to common misconceptions, the hymen is a flexible membrane that partly covers the vaginal opening and does not seal it like a door. Hence the notion that there was no sexual intercourse if there is no broken hymen is false. Conversely, a hymen can have an old tear and its orifice may vary in size for many reasons unrelated to sex, so examining it provides no evidence for drawing conclusions about virginity.
The Indonesian Society of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Indonesian Medical Association should issue public statements condemning “virginity testing” and demand that Indonesia’s police and military cease inflicting it on female applicants.
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