Why the UN agencies have called for a worldwide ban on virginity testing?
UN agencies have documented a practice of virginity tests in at least 20 countries spanning all regions of the world. The UN agencies which include UN Human Rights, UN Women and the World Health Organization have called to end virginity testing.
Why the call by UN agencies?
- Virginity tests are a form of gender discrimination. The UN agencies emphasise that “virginity” is not a medical or scientific term but a social, cultural and religious construct.
- Virginity testing involves the inspection of the hymen for tears or its size of opening, and/or inserting fingers into the vagina (the “two-finger” test). There is no evidence that either method can prove whether a woman or girl has had vaginal intercourse or not.
- Virginity tests also violate the right to privacy of women as the virginity tests are more of a compulsion than a matter of choice.
- Virginity tests violate women’s and girls’ human rights.
- In cases of rapes, virginity tests cause additional pain and mimic the original act of sexual violence, leading to re-experience, re-traumatization and re-victimization. This may also result in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.
UN agencies strongly advocate that there is an urgent need to raise awareness among health professionals and communities of the detrimental effects. Already some governments have banned virginity testing and enacted laws to criminally punish those who perform the examination.
Status in India:
India did away with the controversial two-finger test in 2015. But the government has not done much to promote the “rape kit” which can make a substantial difference in convicting rapists.