According to ABC News Australia, a former applicant identified as Zakia told Human Rights Watch that she failed her test when she tried to join the police earlier this year.
She was subjected to the aforementioned test, and to make matters worse, one not conducted by a medical doctor.
“They didn’t just insert their fingers into my vagina, but also into my anus,” said Zakia, whose last name has been withheld to protect her identity. “They kept probing … it was extremely painful.”
“Every time I remember what happened, I cry … I feel like I don’t want to live anymore.”
According to Zakia, she was a martial arts athlete who did many splits and other exercises over the years, which may have compromised her hymen.
“Once, I fell and my vagina hit a block of wood, but I don’t know whether my hymen broke,” she recalled. “My mother told me not to worry about it … but I told [the police officers interviewing me] that I remember feeling great pain in my vagina due to the fall — after that, the interview was over.”
While Zakia insisted that she was a virgin, the interviewing officers reportedly intimidated her to “come clean.”
In the end, she failed to get to the second round of the application process.
Indonesian police believe that society cannot accept a female officer who used to be a sex worker or even has an active sex life, according to Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono.
“Many military generals believe that the hymen is like a clock, if the hymen is torn between 11:00 am to 2:00 pm it’s mostly because of physical activities … but if the hymen is torn at 6:00 pm it means the woman has an sexual life,” Harsono told ABC News Australia.
Indonesia banned such virginity testing following international pressure, but the practice remains a key part of police recruitment, according to a study from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
In addition to the test, applicants are required to be “pretty,” have excellent physical health and possess a strong religious belief. An “almost always” all-male selection committee oversees the process.
“As Indonesia’s police force consistently rates as one of the world’s most corrupt, brutal and ineffective, any strategy resulting in an increase in public confidence in police must have some merit,” said Dr. Sharyn Davies, author of the AUT study.
“Furthermore, the celebrity status achieved by policewomen has inspired girls to consider a police career, an inspiration that too must have some merit.”
Unfortunately, the archaic and unscientific standards restrict women from doing actual police work. Promotion is “nearly impossible,” said Dr. Davies.
“The stereotyping of Indonesian policewomen is damaging and dangerous not only in the restricted view it permits of policewomen as beautiful virgins but also in its framing of women more generally. As a result of such strictures, policewomen rarely are permitted to do the actual policing work upon which promotion is granted because they are deemed too beautiful to a) want to do dirty patrol work and b) they are too beautiful to be able to do it even if they wanted to.”
The phenomenon has long sparked pictures tagged #polwancantik — meaning “pretty policewomen” — on social media. On Instagram, the hashtag has been used at least 192,000 times.
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