Indonesia's national police were urged Tuesday to halt virginity tests for women applying to join the force in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country with Human Rights Watch saying the practice was harmful and humiliating. The rights group said women applicants are required to be both unmarried and virgins, and the virginity test is still widely used 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. The women told how they were forced to strip naked before female medics gave them a "two-finger test", to see if their hymens were intact, a practice described by HRW as archaic and discredited. "I don't want to remember those bad experiences. It was humiliating," said one 19-year-woman who took the test in the city of Pekanbaru, on western Sumatra island, and whose identity was not disclosed. "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. "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." The tests contravene the police's own guidelines on recruitment and violate international human rights to equality, non-discrimination and privacy, HRW said. Police spokesman Ronny Sompie said a "comprehensive health test" was carried out on all applicants, and officials wanted to ensure that candidates were free from sexually transmitted diseases. He said the discovery that a woman was not a virgin did not necessarily mean she would fail the application process. However HRW said that a posting on the police's own website this month noted that female applicants must be virgins. National Police High Commissioner Sri Rumiati told the rights group that colleagues had opposed her calls in 2010 to stop the tests and asked: "Do we want to have prostitutes joining the police?" Women currently make up about three percent of the 400,000-strong force, HRW said, but added the police had launched a drive to increase the number of female officers. Society is deeply conservative in parts of Indonesia 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.
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