A proposal by a council member of the Jember city council located in East Java had proposed last week that “virginity tests” for high school girls were part of a “good conduct” legislation that officials were considering, citing what they said were worryingly high HIV rates among high school children in the region. Another law maker later expressed support for expanding the proposal to cover the entire 2.3 million strong province, with the intention of “scaring” girls away from sex.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ayub Junaid, vice chairman of the Jember city council came out to apologize “on behalf of the leadership and local legislative bodies…to the public, especially women, in particular girls and children”.
Human rights advocates have accused the tests of being “discriminatory gender-based violence”. They say that the tests are rooted “in a desire to intimidate, a desire to instill fear, along with very mistaken views that there actually might be a medical purpose or efficacy in the test”.
The World Health Organization stated that such tests have no scientific or medicinal value.
Tuesday’s apology came after Jember council members met with Indonesia’s top clerical body, the Ulema Council. The council has voiced its opposition to the proposal, declaring that virginity tests were not compatible with Islam.
Virgin tests are still required for all women who want to serve in the country’s military or police forces however, according to a Human Rights Watch investigation last November.