Indonesian official apologizes for proposing virginity tests for high school girls

On Tuesday an Indonesian official apologized for proposing virginity tests for high school girls, prohibiting graduation should they “fail” the test.

According to local media, Habib Isa Mahdi — a city council member of Jember, East Java — said virginity tests were installed as part of “good conduct” legislation, addressing the alarmingly high rate of HIV infections among high schoolers, with students making up 10 percent of those infected. Mahdi also cited Indonesia’s “emergency situation against pornography” as another motivator for this new legislation.

Another lawmaker, Mufti Ali, from the National Awakening Party, told local news that he wanted to apply this regulation to the entire province, with a population of 2.3 million. This would add much needed “pressure” for the girls to improve their bad behavior.

“We can’t test the boys,” he told the East Java news outlet. “But at least with the regulation, girls will be afraid [to have pre-marital sex]. The boys will be prevented from the act because girls will become unwilling. This will scare them, that if they [have sex], they will not graduate.”

The World Health Organization, however, claims that this test has no scientific or medical value. It “illustrates both a profound ignorance about medical reality and a real contempt for the rights of women and girls,” said Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch.

Tuesday’s apology came once members of Indonesia’s top Islamic clerical body, the Ulema Council, met with Jember’s city council, saying that the tests were incompatible with Islam.

Indonesia still requires women to take virginity tests before joining military or police forces.

[Soli Salgado is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is]

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