Being single and virgin are two essentials “qualities” expected from young Indonesian people wishing to become police officers in the largest Muslim country in the world. How does the state ensure this? According to Human Rights Watch (International NGO), through tests : virginity examinations. The association has asked the Indonesian police to stop these practices deemed “discriminatory” and “humiliating.” Of course, following these accusations, the Indonesian police declined to make any comment. These virginity tests violate the rights of human beings to equality, non-discrimination and privacy. In addition, the “test of two fingers” is an archaic practice, and has long since been discredited.

The Indonesian society is deeply conservative in parts of the country, where female virginity is still considered a paramount value. Note that women account for only 3% of the 400,000 Indonesian police.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that an NGO denounces practices as humiliating against women in Indonesia: For example Amnesty International denounced the obstacles women face in order to have full access to healthcare. Although the practice is legal, it is very difficult for women who have been raped to abort. This contributes to the fact that, in the world, «20 million pregnancies end in unsafe abortions and 85,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes».(Robert O’Brien and Marc William, ‘Global Political Economy’).

Furthermore, genital mutilation is still practiced in some rural areas of Indonesia. The operation is usually done with a piece of sharpened bamboo, a knife or a razor blade and no anesthesia. There is currently no legislation prohibiting this practice. gender2

Another example of disregard for women’s rights is the lack of legislation against forced prostitution, more generally against the sexual exploitation of women : « Increasingly the issue of prostitution needs a global analysis. The sex tourism is both a part of the global political system and the global economy and the fact ‘that it is not taken seriously says more about the ideological construction of seriousness than the politics of tourism’»   (Jill Steans, ‘Gender and International Relations : an Introduction’)

Sex work is practiced in many countries other than Indonesia and Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand: «Women’s bodies in this international political economy of sex are tradable commodities. The global sex trade has expanded to include many women and children since the 1970s. Women are exported from one country to another in much the same way as one would export a commodity such as wheat.» (Robert O’Brien and Marc William, ‘Global Political Economy’).

In this respect, the Indonesian example shows us that still many battles to fight for women’s rights and gender equality…

I would like to conclude with this glaring truth sentence: “Prostitution, institutionalizes the sexuality of male supremacy, which fuses the eroticization of dominance and submission with the social construction of male and female.” (Laura J. Shepherd, ‘Gender, violence and popular culture: telling stories’)

Pauline Perez

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