KUALA LUMPUR – An Indonesian female gymnast training for a major sport event has been sent home on grounds she was no longer a virgin, her family said on Friday, a claim rejected by officials who insisted it was over disciplinary issues.
Shalfa Avrila Sania, 17, had been due to leave for the biennial Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines on Nov. 26 until she was dismissed suddenly from the training in mid-November, her lawyer and family said.
“The coach said my daughter always goes out late with her male friends and their interrogation showed she was no longer a virgin,” her mother Ayu Kurniawati told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Indonesia’s East Java province.
“I was shocked. I want my daughter’s name cleared,” the mother-of-two added.
Indonesia’s sports ministry denied the claim on Friday, saying the dismissal was due to performance and disciplinary issues.
“We will take firm action if the athlete was sent back due to questions over her virginity because this is a matter of privacy, dignity and has nothing to do with performance,” it said in a statement according to Indonesia’s Detik news website.
Kurniawati said her daughter had won nearly 50 medals since she took up the sport when she was eight, and rejected doubts over her performance.
The family has sent a letter to the ministry to protest her dismissal alongside a medical report that showed her hymen was intact, their lawyer Imam Muklas said by phone.
Parts of Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country – remain conservative and some still value female virginity highly, although pre-marital sex is not uncommon among the younger generation.
Human rights groups have previously opposed “virginity tests” on Indonesian women seeking to join the police or military, saying the practice was unscientific and degrading.
Other attempts to introduce virginity tests on students in some Indonesian schools faced opposition, including from among Islamic clerics.
(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; editing by Ros Russell for the Thomson Reuters Foundation)