‘Virginity Tests’ Throw Spotlight on Indonesia’s Conflicted Sexual Morality

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A small-town education chief in Indonesia made headlines last week after he reportedly planned to impose mandatory virginity tests on female students entering high school. He cited concerns over premarital sex and teen prostitution as the reason. But H.M. Rasyid, the Education Agency chief of Prabumulih, a town in South Sumatra province, wasn’t saying anything Indonesians hadn’t heard before.

In recent years, other figures have argued for virginity tests — an invasive, humiliating procedure that is based on pseudo science — including a provincial legislator in eastern Sumatra in 2010 and a district chief in western Java in 2007. Both proposals were withdrawn after public outrage, but some conservative politicians and religious figures remain in favor of the idea. Says Masruchah, deputy chair of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (and who, like many Indonesians, uses one name): “They have no understanding about human rights. They are more worried…

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