PALEMBANG, Indonesia — Indonesian officials on Tuesday dismissed as excessive and unethical a proposal by an education official on Sumatra island that would require female senior high school students to undergo virginity tests to discourage premarital sex and protect against prostitution.
Muhammad Rasyid, head of the education office in South Sumatra’s district of Prabumulih, said he wants to start the tests next year and has proposed a budget for it. But other officials and activists have criticized the plan, arguing it is discriminatory and violates human rights.
Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook lit up with outrage, with some people calling the tests a form of child abuse that could emotionally scar the students.
Provincial education chief Widodo, who uses only one name, said Tuesday he will suggest that Rasyid drop the plan.
“There are many more important and useful things that need to be cared for rather than such a test,” he said. “As students, they need to be nurtured more than be judged.”
In the capital Jakarta, Aris Merdeka Sirait of the National Commission for Child Protection, said the plan was “just aimed for popularity.”
“Loss of virginity is not merely because of sexual activities. It could be caused by sports or health problems and many other factors,” Sirait said. “We strongly oppose this very excessive move.”
When disclosing his plan Monday, Rasyid said the idea would attract criticism but defended it as “an accurate way to protect children from prostitution and free sex.” In order to pass, it would need approval from the district council of lawmakers.
But Education Minister Mohammad Nuh described it as a violation of common principles.
Nurul Arifin, a female legislator from the Golkar Party, said the plan was unethical and “discrimination and harassment against women.”
A similar plan was scrapped in another Sumatran province in 2010 amid widespread criticism.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country of 240 million, is a secular nation where most practice a moderate, tolerant form of the faith. However, some conservatives are worried rapid modernization is eroding morals.