Friday, October 4, 2013

Don't You Dare Inspect My Hymen: Response to Muhammad Rasyid's 'Virginity Test'

News of Muhammad Rasyid's 'Virginity Test' hits the internet in late August. Yes, I realize how much of a late bloomer I've been with regards to this story, but on the bright side, the proposal has not been approved. According to Jakarta Post, Tempo, USA Today, and The Guardian, Muhammad Rasyid, the education chief of Prabumulih district in South Sumatra, placed forward a policy that would require female senior school students of 16 to 19 years of age to have their hymen examined annually until graduation. Rasyid argues that "This [policy] is for their own good- Every woman has the right to virginity... we expect students not to commit negative acts." Further information as to his motivations are available in the links below. 

Practice tool for 'Virginity Test' Examiners
As suspected, numerous negative comments have ensued as activists relate the procedure with rape and sexual abuse, as well as discrimination. Commentators have blatantly been opposed to this practice, pointing out towards a corrupt system and culture, permeated with Muslim perspectives. So, if this were all true, if Indonesia were really a hopeless nation, how would a female Indonesian high school graduate response to this unsettling news? 

Although the specifics of the procedure has not been publicized, there is reason to suspect possible ramifications such as inappropriate touching, abuse, and even rape. Furthermore, no reports regarding the inclusion of ascent and consent processes by either the female students, who are above eighteen, or parents for underage students. 
Rasyid believes that the test is "an accurate way to protect children from prostitution and free sex." The proposal was created as a response to an alleged increase in pre-marital sex and prostitution in South Sulawesi. I was unable to find supportive data on this matter. Moreover, none of the reports show that this policy was supported by any research or is in reference to past policies in Indonesia or other countries. Clearly the policy lacks scientific evidence for it to withstand opposition. With little information, readers are given room for imagination and might be predisposed to label Rasyid as a nut, which he might as well be. 

Good luck on passing through those beads and seaweed!
Many have certainly antagonized Rasyid for his proposal, as well as condemn his policy. Personally, I am most bothered by the evident practice of discrimination in these plans. The policy targets women, exclusively. Male students are not subject to investigation, let alone mandatory annual examination. Women are held responsible for trends in premarital sex and prostitution. You can find extensive arguments regarding the discriminatory fashion of this policy by clicking the links below. Instead of repeating these assertions, I would like to point out one basic flaw: a policy that exclusively apprehends women will never reach its ultimate goal. 

Society consists of power struggles, which includes two parties, at the very least. Change will be reached effectively when both parties are actively involved in resolving the problem. Single fighters rarely win the battle. Historically, men were involved in the women's rights movement, whites were involved in the black power movement, and Dutchmen were involved in the independence of Indonesia. Support from the other side will contribute to change. 

To lower rates of premarital sex and prostitution, the government needs to include both male and female students, as well as parents, guardians, teachers, and other people who are involved in these children's lives. A myriad of factors play into the claimed phenomenon of increase in premarital sex and prostitution. For the number to decrease, the government should not only be focusing its policies on women. Efforts to protect should also be in place, in conjunction with endeavors in lowering these numbers. Examples of these policies may include higher adult surveillance at home, comprehensive sexual education in school, and increase in school activity. Other possible alternatives include, programs that empower women to make educated decisions about sex, as well as empower men by showing that to be masculine is to abstain. 

I realize that some of these propositions might not suit the culture, environment and religious practices in Prabumulih, South Sulawesi. However, it is the government's responsibility to create well-thought, scientific based, and culturally relevant policies, as well as evaluate its viability, feasibility and consequences. In addition, it is also the government's role to ensure minimal harm and optimum benefit for those in question, i.e. the female and male students in South Sulawesi. 

I Am So Getting Out of Here!
Not sponsored by Louis Vuitton
There is much to say about Rasyid's proposal for 'virginity tests' to be implemented in 2014, but this might be due to low availability of comprehensive information. Now that we are at the end of this article, how do I feel about this policy? Let me just admit that, at first, my eyes were wide open. As I read paragraph upon paragraph, I felt angry at this ridiculous, unjustifiable, dare I say, uneducated proposal and the lack of information density in the article. Finally, I felt tired and speechless. Getting mad would not solve much. Ranting on the internet seemed to have little to no effect on the status of this policy proposal. 

What was I supposed to do to prevent the passing of Rasyid's policy? I have poured my thoughts and arguments, but I still feel hopeless. I am left to wonder about concrete ways to prevent this policy from gaining steam and being passed. Ultimately, I am open to any suggestion and invitation to join a movement against Rasyid's 'virginity test'.

*Author owns the rights to all of the photographs above

Links to news reports of the 'virgin test' (some are in English and others are in Bahasa Indonesia):

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