Women hoping to become police officers in Indonesia need to be strong, healthy—and should have an intact hymen, officials say, to determine whether or not they are moral. The revelation has sparked a new round of debates about women's rights in this highly conservative nation, the New York Times reports. "Similar tests are not carried out for men because of differences in anatomy, but also because sociologically, it is women who are considered the symbol of purity, not men," says an independent state body on violence against women. Critics also say that the tests (which involve a doctor inserting fingers inside a woman) are discriminatory, traumatic, and inconclusive considering that hymens can be damaged by other means, like horseback riding or contact sports.
A Human Rights Watch report and video sparked the debate last month about such tests, which have been going on for 50 years or more under the radar. "We don’t know how widespread the practice is, and we don’t know if it’s nationwide," says an HRW researcher. "But it’s there. ... The argument has been, 'We don’t want prostitutes in the police force.'" A top police official tells the Jakarta Post that a failed virginity test only hurts a candidate's chances rather than disqualifying her, but a woman's rights activist says that's all the more reason to abolish the practice. Last year, an education official in Indonesia proposed giving high-school girls virginity tests to thwart prostitution and promiscuity, but the notion was scrapped after widespread outrage on social media sites. (Read more Indonesia stories.)