News - November 27, 2014

Meanwhile in Indonesia

In the news: Women who want to join the police in Indonesia have to undergo a test of their virginity. This ‘two-finger test’ is seen as humiliating and discriminatory, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch..

Commentary by Pipiet Larisatie from Semarang. She is doing a course (Market Access for Sustainable Development) at the Centre for Development Innovation.

‘There had been rumours for some time that you had to be a virgin to join the police. But nobody knew for sure, or at least no-one I know. One reason that it has now come out in the open is that the police have recently started training a lot of women. And rightly so, for at the moment they are almost all men.

One police chief said that the test was to make sure they didn’t take on any prostitutes. That’s not a plausible argument; they would be better off doing a background check. The chief also said that the test result doesn’t affect the decision whether or not to admit someone. So why are they doing it? Formal statements are not always in line with the facts.

In Indonesia, virginity is seen as an indicator of a good character. Young women are supposed to be virgins because unrestricted sex is seen as a sin. That is a religious norm that enjoys widespread tacit support. Religion plays a major role in Indonesia. Talking about sex is still a taboo, for instance. I don’t even discuss it with my female friends.

Of course I don’t want bad people joining the police - they are corrupt enough as it is. But I disagree with a criterion that can’t be applied to both men and women. How are you supposed to test a man? A psychological test would be much better.

The police shouldn’t be scaring off women; they could do with some extra empathy. Many female victims of sexual violence, for example, don’t dare go to the police. They are too ashamed to tell male officers about what happened to them.’