Nigeria’s female genital mutilation ban is important precedent, say campaigners

A young Nigerian girl from the Hausa tribe stands next to the line as her mother joins others queuing to validate their voting cards, at a polling station located in an Islamic school in Daura, the home town of opposition candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in northern Nigeria Saturday, March 28, 2015. Nigerians went to the polls Saturday in presidential elections which analysts say will be the most tightly contested in the history of Africa's richest nation and its largest democracy. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

A young Nigerian girl from the Hausa tribe stands next to the line as her mother joins others queuing to validate their voting cards, at a polling station located in an Islamic school in Daura, the home town of opposition candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in northern Nigeria Saturday, March 28, 2015. Nigerians went to the polls Saturday in presidential elections which analysts say will be the most tightly contested in the history of Africa’s richest nation and its largest democracy. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis

As the outgoing president, Goodluck Jonathan, bans FGM in one of his final acts, groups look to the last African nations who have not yet made it illegal

The Nigerian government has taken the historic step of outlawing the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), in a move campaigners describe as “hugely important”.

Nigeria – a cultural and political powerhouse in Africa – introduced a new federal law banning the practice, which involves removing part or all of a girl’s outer sexual organs.

The outgoing president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the ban into law as one of his final acts as leader. He was beaten in Nigeria’s presidential election in March by Muhammadu Buhari, who was sworn into office on Friday.

The law, which was passed by the Senate on 5 May, also prohibits men from abandoning their wives or children without economic support.

Around a quarter of Nigerian women have undergone FGM – which can cause infertility, maternal death, infections and the loss of sexual pleasure – according to 2014 UN data. The practice was already banned in some states, but now it will be outlawed throughout the country.

It is estimated that 125 million girls and women globally are living with the effects of FGM, which is most widespread in Africa and the Middle East. The Guardian recently launched a global media campaign to end the practice, with backing from the United Nations Population Fund, in order to help local journalists report on FGM and shed light on its consequences.

The news of Nigeria’s ban was welcomed by campaigners who hope it will have a knock-on effect in other African nations where FGM is still legal and widely practised.

“This is fantastic news and a landmark moment. We are now one step closer to ending this harmful practice,” said UK international development secretary Justine Greening.


As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria’s decision carries significant weight, but it would need to be implemented effectively, said Mary Wandia, FGM programme manager of Equality Now. “With such a huge population, Nigeria’s vote in favour of women and girls is hugely important,” she said. “We hope, too, that the other African countries which have yet to ban FGM – including Liberia, Sudan and Mali, among others – do so immediately to give all girls a basic level of protection.”

Others stressed that the battle to end FGM in a generation was far from over, saying it was crucial that attitudes, as well as laws, were changed.

“It is crucial that we scale up efforts to change traditional cultural views that underpin violence against women. Only then will this harmful practice be eliminated,” said Stella Mukasa, director of gender, violence and rights at the International Center for Research on Women, writing in the Guardian.

Tanya Barron, chief executive of the global children’s charity Plan UK, said prosecution must be just one strand of international efforts to end FGM. “This must be centred on working with girls and their communities to ensure that they know the risks of this human rights violation,” she said.

“What is encouraging is that we are talking more and more about FGM. This is crucial to break the taboos around the subject and to help ensure that, in future, girls can live free from the risks it brings.”


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Live Q&A: how can the sustainable development goals do more for girls?

How can the SDGs be targeted to dig out the root of causes entrenched gender inequality? Join an expert panel on Thursday 28 May, 1–3pm BST, to discuss

Sponsored by The Girl Effect

Katine Project, Girls play netball at Katine primary school.   Photo by Dan Chung

Katine Project, Girls play netball at Katine primary school.   Photo by Dan Chung


“The millennium development goals [MDGs] did not address the root causes of poverty, most especially women’s inequality, which made it impossible for the goals to be truly transformative,” said Action Aid in a report to the UK government in 2012.

Lucie Faucherre at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), agrees that the MDGs did not adequately target the origins of gender equality:

“An unequivocal lesson from the MDGs experience is that tackling entrenched norms and practices is the business of development. In fact, it is a prerequisite to creating an environment that respects and protects girls’ rights. This might mean taking risks and being innovative.”

So now the opportunity is here to set the road map for the next 15 years with the sustainable development goals (SDGs), how can they catalyse truly transformative change? Can they actually achieve ambitious aims to end discrimination, eliminate violence against women and girls and end child marriage and female genital mutilation?

What risks and innovations are worth taking? What are the best ways to measure achievement? And how can girls voices be included in the process? Join an expert panel on Thursday 28 May, 1–3pm BST, to discuss these questions and more.
The panel

Professor Jo Boyden, director, Young Lives, Oxford Department of International Development, Oxford, UK, @yloxford
Jo had led this international study of childhood poverty since 2005 and has written on child labour, children and political violence, and child migration.
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Lucie Faucherre, junior policy analyst, Gender Equality and Women’s Rights OECD, Paris, France, @luciefaucherre
Lucie supports the work of GenderNet, the only international forum where gender experts from the donor agencies and foreign ministries meet to define common approaches.

Katja Iversen, chief executive, Women Deliver, New York, US, @katja_iversen
Katja has more than 20 years’ experience working in NGOs, corporates and UN agencies. Previously, she held a leading position at Unicef.

Saket Mani, UN global youth advocate, World We Want 2015, Pune, India, @SaketMANI
Saket is a global youth activist, community mobiliser and strategist advocating for democratic sustainability, youth rights, human rights, gender justice, accountability, transparency and youth engagement.

Nebila Abdulmelik, head of communications, Femnet (African Women’s Development & Communication Network), Nairobi, Kenya, @aliben86
Nebila is a pan-Africanist and a feminist passionate about social justice. She has been actively engaged in the post-2015 SDGs process since 2012.

Kasia Staszewska, women’s rights policy adviser, ActionAid UK, London, UK, @KasiaStasz
Kasia is a Women’s Rights Adviser in ActionAid and focuses on violence against women, economic inequality and post-2105.

Anush Aghabalyan, head of advocacy, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, London, UK, @Anushik_Ag
Before joining World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), the largest voluntary movement dedicated to girls in the world, Anush worked for UN agencies.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, general secretary, World YWCA, Geneva, Switzerland, @worldywca
Nyaradzayi is a goodwill ambassador for the African Union on ending child marriage. She is a human rights lawyer has worked on issues of women and children’s rights for the past 20 years.

The live chat is not video or audio-enabled but will take place in the comments section (below). Get in touch via or @GuardianGDP on Twitter to recommend someone for our expert panel. Follow the discussion using the hashtag #globaldevlive.

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Why we can’t stay silent about FGM

Researching her latest book, YA author Emma Craigie went to the first National Conference on Female Genital Mutilation in 2012 and found inspiration. The result – What Was Never Said – is not a campaigning novel, but instead tells the story of a young girl growing up, overcoming adversity and finding a way to bridge different cultures

  • Read the first chapter of What Was Never Said here
  • A counsellor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) performed on their daughters in Minia, Egypt June 13, 2006. To match feature: HEALTH CIRCUMCISION/EGYPT. Picture taken June 13, 2006 REUTERS/Tara Todras-Whitehill (EGYPT) - RTX12LR

    A counsellor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) performed on their daughters in Minia, Egypt June 13, 2006. To match feature: HEALTH CIRCUMCISION/EGYPT. Picture taken June 13, 2006 REUTERS/Tara Todras-Whitehill (EGYPT) - RTX12LR

  • Dear Lords, Ladies and gentlemen – I’ve always wanted to say that. Oh! And young people. Thank you for being here and thank you for supporting us with what we’re doing. You don’t understand how weird it is to be standing here as a MAN – yes, not a boy, a man, from my community, talking about Female Genital Mutilation. Believe me, Somali men never talk about women’s bits, even amongst themselves. And perhaps that’s the problem. Too many people have been quiet for too long. But the point is IF FGM is to stop, and it HAS to stop, then everybody, regardless of gender or race, has to take a stand. I stand here as a brother, a cousin, a son, and a future father… hopefully. I also stand here as a friend and a human being.

    Bristol, July 2012. The opening of the first National Conference on Female Genital Mutilation. The person speaking was a skinny fourteen year old boy. I’d heard him practise, at an after school session in a hot classroom, during the previous week. He had never spoken in public before and couldn’t get to the end of his introduction without breaking into nervous giggles. But now, facing a huge hall full of students, FGM survivors, journalists, programme makers, international experts, MPs (well, one MP – the heroic Jane Ellison), he spoke with passion and confidence. It was the audience who laughed nervously when he mentioned “women’s bits”, but as he got into his stride, we held our breath. We all knew that we were witnessing something extraordinary – the powerful voice of a young person set on changing the world, and he wasn’t alone.

    The 2012 conference was organized by a group of young people calling themselves Integrate Bristol. I was there to research a novel, and to run a writing workshop with Sasha Hails who was writing a story about FGM for Casualty. At this point I wasn’t very clear what shape the book would take, but I knew one thing – the young people of Integrate Bristol were my starting point.

    After finishing my first novel, Chocolate Cake with Hitler, in 2009, I found it very difficult to decide what to write about next. I’d written big chunks of three different possible books, and then abandoned them. One day my editor emailed me with a suggestion for a novel that had come to her from a teenage girl. The idea was for a book told through the voices of a number of girls who came from different religious backgrounds. It didn’t particularly grab me but because I’d been dithering for so long, I decided to give it one day’s research.

    And one day turned out to be enough. I came across Integrate Bristol. I’d found my inspiration.

    In May 2012 I started visiting Integrate Students at City Academy Bristol, the school where they have their headquarters. I went to all kinds of campaigning events. I watched their films, plays, lesson plan demonstrations and listened to fabulous songs which they had written and performed in their determined fight against FGM, but more widely against all kinds of violence against women and girls.

    In the final months of writing the book, I read chunks of it to kind and patient girls who stayed after school to answer all sorts of questions about learning the Qur’an, making Somali tea and, in some cases, memories of life before they came to England. There are many amazing young people in Bristol’s Somali community. They are bridging different cultures: questioning and respecting the traditions of their parents and grandparents whilst questioning and respecting the challenges of contemporary British culture. Their thinking is nuanced and their campaigning is effective.

    The students of Integrate Bristol have achieved a huge amount in terms of getting the abuse of FGM into public consciousness. Some of them have been on Newsnight, lobbied Michael Gove in person, met Ban Ki-Moon and shared a stage with Malala. But the novel that finally emerged, What Was Never Said, is not, in itself, a campaigning novel. It’s the story of a young girl growing up and overcoming adversity. It does not tell the story of any of the students I met, but rather it imagines the situation of a girl who doesn’t have the support of their campaign. And there are many. UNICEF estimates that 133 million women have undergone FGM worldwide. In Britain, mandatory recording of FGM cases started on 1 September 2014, since when the NSPCC has recorded more than 1700 survivors have been referred to specialist clinics.

    What Was Never Said by Emma Craigie

    As the 14 year old boy said, “IF FGM is to stop, and it HAS to stop, then everybody, regardless of gender or race, has to take a stand”.

    What Was Never Said is out in the Guardian bookshop now.

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Young Somali soccer players find fun in fitness, learn soccer skills playing on girls-only team

33Toronto Girls Soccer Association (TGSA) founder and coach Hanan Warsame is pictured here (at far right) with team sponsor Hodan Nalayeh of Integration TV (centre) and some of the 25 girls aged five to 13 who make up the team. Warsame is currently looking for sponsors to help expand the TGSA, a volunteer-based not-for-profit that runs out of Kipling Collegiate and consists mainly of girls hailing from Etobicoke’s Somali Muslim community.


When Hanan Warsame first started the Toronto Girls Soccer Association (TGSA) six months ago, her young charges could hardly do a lap of the Kipling Collegiate gym without collapsing in heaps – but what a difference half a year makes.

These days, the girls on Warsame’s fledgling year-round soccer team – the vast majority of whom hail from north Etobicoke’s Somali Muslim community – can’t seem to get enough exercise.

“I’ve learned how to do kick-ups, how to pass, and how to score,” 10-year-old Mariam enthused at a recent TGSA practice, shortly before running off to join her teammates for an intense session of running and dribbling drills. “I’ve also learned how to keep the ball up in the air and do headers. It’s cool.”

Mariam and her teammates weren’t always so enthusiastic about soccer, though – especially the running part.

“It was really challenging in the beginning. It was very shocking for me to see these girls not be able to run more than two minutes without asking for a water break – and it wasn’t even just one or two of them, it was, like, 95 per cent if them,” said Warsame of the 25 girls aged five to 13 who play on the TGSA team for two hours every Tuesday and Saturday evening.

“But now these girls, they can run, because I pushed them and pushed them and pushed them. They hated me for it at first, but now they love it and they want to keep on running.”

Born in Somalia, 25-year-old Warsame was raised by her soccer fanatic father alongside an equally soccer-loving older brother in the Netherlands. So it wasn’t surprising when, by age four, she too had taken up the sport with a vengeance.

“I was always playing soccer, always had a ball playing on the streets outside, to the point I was playing four times a week on two different teams,” the Dixon Road area resident said during a break from a recent TGSA practice at Kipling Collegiate.

After a short hiatus from the sport during her university days, Warsame moved to Toronto two years ago and soon began volunteer coaching a young boys’ soccer team. It was while overseeing those boys that she said she began to take notice of her players’ sisters sitting bored on the sidelines – many of them looking like they wished they could be out there playing, too.

And so, soon after, TGSA was born out of Warsame’s desire to instill in young Somali girls – who she said are too often left sitting on the bench – the same love of sport that she grew up with.

“In our culture, girls are often not the priority, so I thought why should I wait,” said Warsame, noting that she had TGSA registered as a not-for-profit organization last May, and then began seeking out volunteers and sponsorships to help make her dream girls team a reality.

One of the first people Warsame approached to sponsor TGSA was well-known Somali broadcaster Hodan Nalayeh, whose Integration TV program was recently picked up by Feva TV and will now be broadcast across Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean and parts of Africa.

Nalayeh was “very supportive” of the idea of empowering her young female soccer players Warsame said and readily agreed to sponsor of TGSA’s uniforms – which Warsame said consists of ‘Integration TV’ emblazoned long-sleeved team jersey and pants, in accordance with parents’ wishes that their daughters be modestly dressed.

“I was blessed that I was able to get my show on the air, so when Hanan came to me (about sponsoring TGSA), I thought it was a great opportunity to pass my blessings on to someone else and help make her dream come true,” said Nalayeh, while watching the girls on the team run through drills wearing their Integration TV jerseys.

“I think the best feeling, for me, is seeing the confidence these girls show running around. They seem happier from the first time they started coming until now – it’s a big difference. It’s almost like their spirit changed, because, you know, with exercise, you get more endorphins,” Nalayeh added.

“I’m hoping that this year we can add more girls, because let’s face it, young Somali girls have a high obesity rate. We need to get them thinking about exercise and valuing activity, and not just sitting at home all day.”

In order to expand TGSA from its current roster of about 25 players, Warsame said she’s hoping to recruit more dedicated volunteers like Nasra Mahamed, a team mother who helps co-ordinate everything, and Abdirasak Mohamed, a former soccer player back in Somalia who is now helping out with some of the coaching duties.

“(The girls) started from zero, from scratch. Some of them didn’t even know how to kick a ball, but they’re making improvements,” Mohamed said of the progress he’s seen in the girls – including his daughter Mariam. “We run a lot, we do stretches, we show them how to drive the ball, and we teach them shooting and controlling the ball…There’s a lot of opportunities with being a soccer player, and we’re hoping, one day, some of these girls could get a scholarship.”

In order to expand TGSA, Warsame said she’s hoping for the support of local businesses and sponsors willing to offer the financial support necessary to help the team secure more player uniforms, more gym time, and an outdoor field for the summer season.

“Our next step is to get more girls involved, but to do that we need more coaches and more sponsors,” she said, noting that the team isn’t exclusive to the Somali community, but is open to girls of all different backgrounds. “We just want to keep motivating these girls to keep going and stay active. The most important thing is for the girls to have fun.”


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Female taxi driver in Wajir breaks barriers to earn bread

11Ladhan Salat the only female taxi driver in Wajir county. She says women should strive for any jobs to cater for their families. [Photo/Boniface Ongeri/STANDARD]



The motor vehicle with bold inscriptions ‘Qali Ladhan’ cruising on the rugged roads of Wajir town leaving behind plumes of dust is a rare spectacle.

But it is not the vehicle that is causing excitement. It is feminine figure of Ladhan Salat behind the wheel.

Necks crane as men, women and children argue amongst themselves over who they just saw behind the steering wheel.

Ladhan is alert to the commotion she is causing and occasionally waves to the dumbfounded residents as she speeds off to her destination.

The taxi business is usually stiff. But Salat has taken her competitors head-on in a county where women are generally expected to be home keepers and not eking out a living among aggressive business rivals.

She stands out as the only woman in the trade in the entire North Eastern region.

Yet despite not looking like your typical taxi operator, Salat has carved out a niche in the business that has swayed between good and bad times since 2013.

Despite the wider challenges still faced by women in this highly conservative community, and the impact of lingering insecurity, Salat’s taxi business has grown from strength to strength.

When she ventured into the male dominated business, Salat says, she did not face any hostility; only some initial puzzlement from male taxi operators and the community.

“Now the community is used to seeing me in the business, but at the beginning they were quite surprised,” she said.

Despite having no prior business experience, she decided to venture into the trade after pondering over her father’s vehicle that was parked in their backyard.

“I did not have job. So one day, I approached my father about venturing into the taxi business using his car.”

Surprisingly, her father had no problem with her requested. She immediately joined a driving school and after successful completion she went into business.

Her uncle had earlier operated the car as a taxi but he abandoned it after disagreeing with her father about profits. This made it easier for her as she did not have to change the car to a PSV.

Her first operation area was Griftu, about 40km west of Wajir town.

Salat, the second born in a family of 12 siblings, was determined to succeed.

“This business supports my whole family. Business is good for me because I can make up to Sh10,000 on a good day. On a bad day, I make about Sh4,000 after deducting all expenses.”

Despite overtures from some of her male customers seeking her hand in marriage, she says she will think about marriage after she has acquired at least three more taxis.

Already, she has bought another vehicle from her proceeds. It is the taxi she now drives.

Salat starts work as early as 4am and finishes as late as midnight. However, she responds to every call regardless of the time. If you have passion for any kind of job, go for it; do not think that it is exclusively for men, she advises.

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A onetime refugee aims high


“Of course, I think about the instability, I think about the insecurity, I think about the challenges that lie ahead, but I think these challenges face women wherever they are,” said future Somalian presidential candidate Fadumo Dayib, who is graduating from the Harvard Kennedy School. “But the ultimate challenge really is: How far am I willing to go with my convictions?” Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer


By Christina Pazzanese

For Fadumo Dayib, the notion of home is a complicated one.
A Mason Fellow in the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration program at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Dayib was born in Kenya, the daughter of uneducated Somali parents. Her father, a truck driver, and her mother, a “nomad,” had left Somalia to start their new life together in neighboring Kenya.

But the history of political and ethnic tensions between the two countries meant she and her family were never accepted by Kenyan society, said Dayib. In 1989, they were arrested and deported amid the spread of civil war in Somalia.

“One of my earliest memories of being a second-class citizen, an unwanted person, a displaced person, was when they handed me a small card that said, ‘Go home,’” Dayib recalled. “And that was the boarding pass that I used to get on Somali Airlines to leave Kenya.”

Finland offered asylum to Dayib’s family, as it did to thousands of Somali refugees. But she felt that the refugee community was largely marginalized, tolerated but never truly wanted. Still, Dayib built a life there. She got married, had children, and found work as a nurse. Although she didn’t learn to read and write until age 14, she went on to get a master’s degree in health care sciences, and later a master’s in public health.

Still, she felt unfulfilled. A deep desire to help those suffering in Somalia gnawed at her. “I have to be there,” she told her husband. So in 2005, she left her family in Finland, taking only her breast-feeding baby along, and joined the United Nations and headed to Puntland, Somalia.

“The first night I slept soundly. I felt I was at home. I was on a mattress, but that was the best thing I ever could have ever done in my life,” Dayib said. “And I never looked back.”

With the U.N., she worked on maternal health issues and mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention, setting up clinics across Somalia. But security concerns prompted the U.N. to evacuate her to Nairobi six months later. More troubling, she said, was the hostility and distrust Dayib felt from Somalis, the very people she was trying to aid.

“It was very similar to what the Finns were telling me: ‘Leave this country, you’re taking over our jobs,’” said Dayib. “So I’m like, ‘Where am I going to go?’ I left Finland because I felt unwanted, and I thought I can help you, and I really think I can help you.’ So, where do I belong?”

Reunited with her family, Dayib went to Fiji and Liberia, where she helped set up HIV prevention offices and trained health care providers for the U.N. over the next several years.

Seeing Liberia, which had recently emerged from its own long-term strife, brought Dayib’s thoughts once again to her ancestral land. “Why can’t Somalia be like this? I want to be in an environment like this where you don’t hear gunfire, girls are going to school, women are working, people feel happy,” she said.

So in 2013, she began work on a Ph.D. at the University of Helsinki on women’s governmental participation and empowerment in post-conflict societies.

After taking a break to attend HKS starting last fall, Dayib has high goals. She is preparing to run for president of Somalia in 2016.

She is quite clear about the difficulties she faces, particularly as a woman. “Of course, I think about the instability, I think about the insecurity, I think about the challenges that lie ahead, but I think these challenges face women wherever they are,” she said. “But the ultimate challenge really is: How far am I willing to go with my convictions?”

“It almost belittles what she’s trying to do to say she’s attempting to make history,” said Steve Jarding, a lecturer in public policy at HKS who teaches campaign management and political strategy. “It’s a bit more than that. I think it’s a profile in courage” for Dayib to seek office in a place where there are such “huge personal risks involved.” But with her “charisma,” “drive” and “remarkable” sense of public service, Jarding said Dayib has the power to unite the Somali diaspora and perhaps stir real change regardless of the election outcome. “I think in so many ways, Somalia and the world are already better.”

“Coming here was really to see how far I could push the envelope. I’ve always wanted to see how far I could go even when people tell me it’s impossible to do,” said Dayib. “My mother always told me, ‘You hold all the possibilities in your palms.’ And it’s true.”


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Why does Indonesia demand that female military recruits are virgins?



By Josephine McDermott

Human rights activists want Indonesia to stop so-called virginity tests being used in the recruitment of female military recruits.

“Bonkers”, “primitive” and “unscientific” are words used to describe it by one of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) researchers who interviewed women who had been subjected to the test.

The World Health Organization has said: “There is no place for virginity testing; it has no scientific validity.”

HRW says the tests are also discriminatory and have no bearing on a woman’s ability to perform her job.

What’s happening in Indonesia?
Virginity tests are obligatory for female military and national police recruits who are typically high school graduates aged between 18 and 20. HRW’s research indicates that the air force, army and navy have for decades also used the test on the fiancees of military officers before marriage.

It also says local governments and the civil service have been known to use the test. In February, officials in Jember, East Java, scrapped a plan to make high school girls be tested before they could graduate from high school.

What happens in a test?

In the test, known as the “two-finger test”, the doctor deduces the state of the hymen – a thin piece of membrane attached to the vaginal wall – and the size and so-called laxity of the vagina.

The test is supposed to assess whether a woman has had sex, but the state of the hymen offers little to answer this question, HRW says. They say a hymen may vary in size for many reasons unrelated to sex. It partly covers the vaginal opening and does not “seal it like a door”.

Military men need to be able to trust their wives, said one army wife when interviewed by HRW

Andreas Harsono was one of the HRW researchers who interviewed 11 Indonesian women, who were all military wives and female officers. He said they described two fingers being used to open the vagina while one finger was placed in the anus.

He said that on one occasion, when a woman told others waiting outside an examination room what had been done to her, all 23 applicants left.

He said that most were embarrassed by the procedure, and many were traumatised.

A female military physician told researchers that when she performed the tests in Jakarta, she found it difficult to persuade the women to take part. “It was not [just] a humiliating act… It was a torture. I decided not to do it again,” she said.

How important is it that recruits are virgins?
According to armed forces information chief Major Gen Fuad Basya, it’s a matter of national security.

He said: “If it is not restricted this way, then someone with a bad habit will become military personnel. Soldiers are a nation’s defenders. They defend a nation’s sovereignty, a country’s territory and security.”

He told local media if a candidate had lost her virginity out of wedlock her mental state would make her unfit to become a soldier.

He said “It may be because of an accident, disease or because of a habit” – meaning sexual intercourse.

“If it is their habit, the Indonesian military cannot accept potential recruits like these.”

An army wife interviewed by HRW said the rationale given to her was economic.

“The military wants healthy couples,” she said. She added: “Military men often travel away from home. They should trust their wives.”

A case brought by Samira Ibrahim led to Egypt banning tests on detainees in military prisons

Do other countries do this?

South Africa:

It’s a hot topic at the moment as a political party has called for high schools to be able to test for female pupils for virginity, to curb teenage pregnancy rates.Opposition to the proposal includes the promotion of abstinence instead, to avoid girls being stigmatised.

It has been seen in the past as a way of stopping the spread of HIV/Aids too.


A case brought by Samira Ibrahim led to Egypt banning tests on detainees in military prisons

HRW has campaigned against Indian hospitals “routinely subjecting rape survivors” to the “two-finger test”.

In 2009, hundreds of women demonstrated against tests imposed on nuns in Kerala and on 151 young women taking part in a state-sponsored mass marriage ceremony.


In 2011, an Egyptian court ordered forced tests on female detainees in military prisons to be stopped.

The court made the decision after a case was brought by protester Samira Ibrahim, who accused the Egyptian army of forcing her to be tested after she was arrested at a protest in Tahrir Square. An Egyptian general had said the tests were carried out so women would not later claim they had been raped.


Tests on some female immigrants from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan were carried out until 1979. They were used to detect whether they were lying about being engaged to a man already living in the country. The claim was that those found to be virgins were more likely to be engaged. The UK Border Agency has since said the practices were “clearly wrong”.


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