Chris Barrett and Karuni Rompies, Singapore – The Indonesian navy and air force face renewed calls to cease invasive "virginity tests" for female recruits after the country's army indicated it would abandon the decades-long practice.
Indonesia's security forces have faced years of pressure to end the procedures, which they have defended as a way to select the best candidates.
Now that police have stopped the "two-finger" screenings, one branch of the military appears to be following suit.
"Health examinations on female candidates must be the same with health examinations on male soldiers," General Andika Perkasa, the Indonesian Army's chief of staff, told commanders in a meeting last month.
"Health examinations that are irrelevant to the objective of recruitment will not be performed anymore."
News of the direction to army commanders has been welcomed by Human Rights Watch, which in 2014 first uncovered the extensive use of the check-up by the Indonesian military after interviewing women who said they were traumatised by the examination. The tests, which involve a doctor inserting fingers into the vagina of a female applicant to determine if the hymen is broken or not, have no scientific merit, according to the World Health Organisation.
HRW Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono described the army chief of staff's orders as "an apparent decision to stop the abusive, unscientific, and discriminatory 'virginity test' that all branches of the Indonesian military have used for decades for female recruits".
"The requirement had been extended in some cases to female fiancees of military officers," he said.
General Perkasa also told army commanders that pre-marriage checks on women marrying soldiers were to be limited to "administrative aspects".
The Navy, however, is still conducting virginity tests on female recruits and would-be brides of serving men along with interviews to assess "the behavioural tendency of the person".
"Yes we do. We call it obstetrical health checks for female candidates. We also do health checks on male candidates in relation to venereal disease," said Navy spokesman First Admiral Julius Widjojono.
He said the check-ups were done "because physical and mental health is important for the organisation".
Air Force spokesman Vice-Marshal Indan Gilang explained virginity testing continued in an effort "to get a healthy officer candidate who meets the set requirements".
"Particularly for female candidates, the examinations are related to female reproduction health and bone density," he said.
Prospective wives of Air Force officers are required to submit a health certificate before marriage, according to Vice-Marshal Indan.
Human Rights Watch has campaigned internationally, including with Australian representatives on the International Committee on Military Medicine, to force reform in Indonesia.
But while the Indonesian government signalled as long as seven years ago that it wanted to bring an end to the practice, it has not forced change upon the military.
"Individual doctors, including those in the military, have regularly provided information to Human Rights Watch about the continuing practice," Harsono said. "Dozens of women subjected to the 'virginity test' when they married into military families in Indonesia also quietly spoke against the practice."
He said the army command was "doing the right thing" but the rest of the military needed to fall into line.
"It is now the responsibility of territorial and battalion commanders to follow orders," he said.
"Increased pressure also needs to be focused on the top commanders of the navy and the air force to follow the army's lead and end this practice."