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Indonesian Military Chief Defends 'Virginity Tests' For Female Recruits

Indonesian female soldiers perform martial arts in Jakarta at the commemoration of Kartini Day to mark the birth of Raden Ajeng Kartini, an Indonesian national heroine born in 1879 who was a pioneer in the area of women's rights.

Indonesia's top military commander defended a requirement that female recruits undergo an invasive "virginity test" to determine if they are morally suited for the armed forces. His remarks follow a letter from Human Rights Watch condemning the practice.

"So what's the problem? It's a good thing, so why criticize it?" Gen. Moeldoko was quoted by The Jakarta Globe as telling reporters on Friday.

The Globe says Moeldoko "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 [Indonesia Armed Forces], 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 said.

According to The Washington Post, "In Indonesia, the test is considered standard practice. Women seeking to join the military are required to strip naked and have their genitalia manually examined by a doctor, purportedly to ensure that they are virgins."

In a letter to the chairman of the International Committee for Military Medicine, Human Rights Watch wrote:

"We interviewed more than a dozen Indonesian military wives and female officers who talked about the physical and psychological trauma of these tests. A doctor who worked at the Army Hospital in Jakarta explained how women are required to strip naked and submit to the "two-finger" test as part of the military medical screening examination.

"So-called 'virginity tests' have been recognized internationally as a violation of human rights, particularly the prohibition against 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment' under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, both of which Indonesia has ratified. In November 2014 the World Health Organization stated unambiguously, 'There is no place for virginity (or "two-finger") testing; it has no scientific validity.'"

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