JAKARTA - The Indonesian army has ended a controversial practice of virginity tests on women who apply to become cadets, according to its chief of staff, a move welcomed by activists who have long campaigned against it.
"Two-finger tests", where doctors check the hymen of female recruits to try to determine their virginity, was systematic, abusive and cruel, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which conducted investigations in 2014 and 2015 into the practice, and in 2017 renewed calls for it to end.
The military previously said the tests were important in determining recruits' morality. However, the World Health Organisation has said they have "no scientific validity" and the appearance of a hymen was not a reliable indicator of intercourse.
General Andika Perkasa, the Indonesian army chief of staff, told reporters on Tuesday (Aug 10) that such tests no longer took place in the army.
"Whether the hymen was ruptured or partially ruptured was part of the examination... Now, there's no more of that," he said, in comments that were confirmed by a military spokesman.
Gen Andika last week said that the army selection process for male and female recruits must be equal.
The navy conducted pregnancy tests on women applicants, but no specific virginity tests, its spokesman Julius Widjojono said on Wednesday, adding that "both men and women undergo the same examinations".
Colonel Indan Gilang, an air force spokesman, said female reproduction tests were undertaken to check for cysts or other complications that could impair recruits' ability to serve, adding that "virginity tests" did not exist in the force's terminology.
Human rights groups welcomed the announcement that the army had ceased the practice.
"There was never any need for the tests," said Ms Andy Yentriyani, head of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan).
Mr Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at HRW said it was "the right thing to do", adding the practice was "degrading, discriminatory, and traumatic".
He said HRW had spoken to more than 100 female military recruits who underwent the tests, including one who said she was subjected to it in 1965.