PRABUMULIH, Indonesia – An education official in Indonesia sparked a firestorm of criticism after he suggested that teenage girls should undergo virginity tests before entering high school.
Muhammad Rasyid is the education chief in Prabumulih, Indonesia—a city of 130,000 in South Sumatra. Indonesia is a southeast Asian country with a population of 240 million. Over 85% of the nation’s residents are Muslim, which makes Indonesia the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world.
According to reports, Rasyid proposed the virginity tests after several instances of prostitution surfaced at schools in the area. Rasyid said he wants to include the new measures in next year’s education budget, claiming that the tests would be for the female students’ “own good” because they would be protected from “prostitution and free sex,” even though, he said, there might be “some human rights concerns.”
“We will try to include the plan in our 2014 budget,” he explained. “We will carry it out every year.”
“Virginity is a human right of every woman,” Rasyid stated, according to the Jakarta Post. “On the other side, however, we hope that all female students are not plunged into negative things. So, we will still introduce the policy and hope that it can be implemented next year.”
Should the education chief’s proposal be implemented, 16- to 19-year-old female students would be affected, since that is generally the age when Indonesian students enter senior high schools.
Following the unveiling of the virginity test proposal, some local politicians were supportive. One lawmaker from Central Java who goes by the name Budiono said this week he thought the tests would be beneficial.
“As long as the test results are kept confidential, I think the plan should go on,” he commented.
However, the majority of reactions to the virginity test proposal have been overwhelmingly negative. One Indonesian legislator said the plan would lead to “discrimination and harassment against women,” and a spokesperson for Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection lambasted Rasyid’s scheme as a “very excessive move.”
“A virginity test is a form of sexual violence against women,” added the deputy head of the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women. “It is degrading and discriminatory against women.”
Following the public outrage over the proposal, Rasyid has tried to distance himself from the measure, claiming that the policies had first been suggested by a parent of one of the schoolchildren, and were not intended to affect all the students.
“We were only approving the request made by the parents of a student after she was accused of no longer being a virgin by a suspect in a human trafficking case,” he told the Jakarta Post. “We never planned a virginity test for female students.”
Regardless, Indonesian Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh publicly warned that sanctions would be imposed on any schools that try to implement similar policies.
“We will act decisively against those who include virginity tests in school policy, because it is detrimental to others and depriving citizens of receiving an education,” he said.