A proposal by an education official on Indonesia's Sumatra Island requiring female senior high school students to undergo virginity tests has been met with public outrage.
Indonesian officials on Tuesday dismissed the proposal as excessive and unethical, with the country's education minister saying "this is not wise."
Muhammad Rasyid, head of the education office in South Sumatra's district of Prabumulih, was the official who initially proposed the plan. He wanted to start the tests next year to discourage premarital sex and protect against prostitution. "If you want to protect your children from negative influence, there are other ways," the minister said.
If you want to protect your children from negative influence, there are other ways.
Activists accused Rasyid of promoting "sexual violence against women" after he suggested the idea following the arrest of six high-school students for alleged prostitution. They called the plan discriminatory and a violation of human rights.
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."
Local authorities opposed
The tests would affect students seeking to enter senior high school. In Muslim-majority Indonesia, senior high-school students are aged between 16 and 19.
In a written statement to the Jakarta Post newspaper on Wednesday, Rasyid seemed to back away from his proposal a bit.
"We never planned a virginity test for female students,” he wrote. "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."
Rasyid said he agreed with the demand because he did not want to see any false accusations against three females who were arrested in the case and claimed to be students.
Earlier, the city's deputy mayor, Ardiansyah Fikri, said that local authorities did not support it.
However, he said religious and moral education programmes were being planned to discourage people from public displays of affection in the city.
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. But some conservatives are worried rapid modernisation is eroding morals.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies