BBC World: Why does Indonesia demand that female military recruits are virgins?

Indonesian female soldiers

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.

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Latest authored BBC story: Margaret Thatcher art posters banned from Tube

Portrait by Ben Moore

Posters of Margaret Thatcher due to be shown at Westminster Tube station have been banned by advertising bosses.

Six portraits of the former prime minister, including a depiction of her as Queen Victoria, were due to run from this week.

CBS Outdoor, which sells advertising space across the London Underground, said running them would break Transport for London (TfL) guidelines.

Former Culture Secretary David Mellor said it was a “stupid situation”.

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Latest BBC feature: Musicians audition for Tube busking licences

Ben Hudson

I told Ben Hudson ‘You look like a young Michael Hutchence’. He said ‘Who’s he?’.

The sound of No Woman, No Cry emanates from a disused platform at Charing Cross Underground station as weekend engineering works are announced and a man plays scales on a bamboo flute.

It’s the last audition day for performers hoping to gain the busking licences for the Tube which were first made available 10 years ago.

Over three weeks, 250 people have played for a panel of three – sometimes including record company professionals – hoping to join the 350 performers who try to entertain commuters. There are up to 100 licences available.

Continue reading here and see my gallery of pictures here.

Latest BBC feature: Tottenham MP wants security review in face of extremism

For the second time this season Tottenham Hotspur fans have been attacked abroad in what appears to be a racially-motivated incident.

Three Spurs supporters received minor injuries in a bar in the French city of Lyon on the eve of their side’s Europa League tie.

In November, one fan was seriously injured and several were hurt in a clash ahead of a Lazio game in Rome.

Questions are now being asked about the security around the north London club, which has a historic Jewish association.

‘Deeply worrying’

Up to 50 masked people attacked the Smoking Dog Pub at about 22:00 CET on Wednesday, smashing windows and throwing objects. Fans were hurt by flying glass.

Former Met officer Chris Hobbs said any club could have been targeted

Eyewitnesses said the attackers entered the pub doing Nazi salutes.

David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, has now called for a careful review of security around Spurs supporters travelling abroad for games.

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London 2012: Games Chasers unite

At an Olympics roof party in Beijing in 2008

Living in China for four years, I established something. I love an Olympics.

We may not have had the civilization classes, but Londoners, like Beijingers, are experiencing many of the same things that go with the Olympics, from lanyards to Games Lanes and the army of desperately helpful, garishly clad volunteers. The big difference? The Chinese can do mass transit like no-one else. They have to. With the population they have there would be riots where people died if they didn’t run enough trains and run them on time. We just grumble a bit and carry on leafing through The Standard.

Last time around I was working for China Daily. Now, I’m reporting on the Games for BBC London. Here are some of my Olympics stories so far:

London 2012: Domestic violence hub opens near Olympic Park

Olympics security poster ‘gibberish’ to Arabic speakers

The London workforce not receiving a Games bonus

The Olympics missile base with sun deck, pool and bar

Here’s looking forward to the drama, the parties, the world records, the controversies and that addictive feeling of being in the centre of the universe for a few weeks.

Were you in Beijing for the 2008 Games? Get in touch @jomcdermott.

Latest BBC feature: The London workforce not receiving a Games bonus

Dave Choo runs a souvenir stall in Oxford Street, central London

Hundreds of workers employed on London’s ‘Boris bike’ hire service have become the latest people to secure a bonus for working over the Olympic Games.

It seems each day brings another group of workers demanding a golden £500. The bus drivers are protesting, hot on the heels of London’s train and Tube workers.

But what about the majority of Londoners who will not be receiving extra money for their added time and hard work?

Asked if anyone in the Olympic Stadium’s borough, Newham, would be receiving a bonus, a press officer answered: “No, we’re all just going to have to work bloody hard.”

And that seems to sum up the resolve of most of London’s unsung heroes – the shop workers putting in extra hours, the hauliers who will work through the night to get deliveries made, the postal workers who could well find themselves sitting in their van cabins clocking up unpaid overtime.

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Battersea toasts ‘eccentric’ Britain for Jubilee party

Ladies offer the chance to make a toast wearing silly hats; what else?

Bennie Banares, from Vancouver, Canada, writes a Christmas card to the Queen every year.

So, with Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee approaching, she naturally sent the monarch a letter to find out how she could be involved.

Five months later the 63-year-old and a group of 43 friends from Canada found themselves on the banks of the Thames in Battersea Park where the Diamond Jubilee Festival was held.

She said: “Even in my dreams I couldn’t imagine being here for the 60th Diamond [Jubilee].”

The Queen’s secretary had replied to her with information on where to buy tickets.

“I knew everything before the tour operators,” she said.

“It is such a privilege to be here. I always read about fairy tales but this is real.”

Bling queens

The festival was dubbed a chance to celebrate “eccentric British culture”, bringing together artists, designers, chefs and bakers.

There was high demand for tickets and up to 90,000 people attended.

Those who could drag themselves away from the riverside where spaces were saved and camps set up found the chance to dress up as a queen.

They could also watch an attempt to build the tallest cake in Britain, enjoy buns baked by the Women’s Institute, dance to live music, make their own crown or escape to a tranquil tent for some storytelling.

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Latest BBC feature: The Olympics missile base with sun deck, pool and bar

It has underground parking, 24-hour security, a gym, swimming pool, residents-only bar, water features and a sun deck overlooking the Olympic Park.

And soon it could be home to a Ministry of Defence surface-to-air missile post.

“I wish the media would stop calling it a block of flats,” a suited man says to another as he stands in the sun beside a koi carp-filled pond, surrounded by a growing melee of Army personnel and reporters.

“We don’t pay extortionate service charges and mortgages for it to be called a block of flats. It’s a gated community,” insurance worker Richard Piatt replies when asked what people should be calling it.

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