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U.N. Calls for Ban on Virginity Testing Worldwide

The U.N. is calling for an end to virginity testing that has landed 190 women and girls in prisons around Afghanistan, where premarital sex is treated as a crime.

The U.N. announced,“This medically unnecessary, and oftentimes painful, humiliating, and traumatic practice must end” at the World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics in Rio de Janeiro. Globally, virginity testing occurs in at least 20 countries. The U.N.’s mandate will end the practice worldwide.

The practice of virginity testing includes “inspecting the hymen for tears or for the size of its opening, or inserting fingers into the vagina, to determine whether a girl or woman has had sex.”

There is no research or conclusable evidence that proves this practice can determine whether or not a woman has had intercourse. Essentially, women around the world have been molested with the excuse that their “virginity” is being checked.

The U.N. described this practice as a form of gender discrimination: “The social expectation that girls and women should remain ‘virgins’ is based on stereotyped notions that female sexuality should be curtailed within marriage. This notion is harmful to women and girls globally.”

In Afghanistan, women who fail the test are sentenced to three months in local jail, however young women often find themselves incarcerated for up to a year and a half.

How do officials determine when to administer a virginity test? Farhad Javid, Afghanistan’s country director for Marie Stopes International, claims that women can be called upon for a test for something as small as walking down the street next to a boy.

What’s even worse is the humiliation girls and women face after being subjected to a virginity test, even if the results conclude they have not had sexual intercourse. Having a virginity test administered often tarnishes the reputation of young women. “The family of the girl will think, ‘You have brought shame to our family and village,’” stated Javid.

Because of Javid and Marie Stopes International, many steps were taken that ultimately resulted in the banning of the practice. The organization helped draft a public health policy, which the government of Afghanistan implemented. The policy helped eradicate the law that jails women due to virginity testing, and states that virginity testing is unscientific.

Marie Stopes international is also providing training to doctors in 19 provinces around Afghanistan to fully incorporate the new policies set in place. Additionally, there will be monitoring to ensure that virginity tests no longer take place.

Javid has met with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani in hopes of releasing the women and girls in prisons due to the unfair practice of virginity testing.

Virginity testing has proven to be an immoral practice used to shame, violate, and discriminate against women. Because of the dedication of Farhad Javid, Marie Stopes International, and the United Nations, women around the world can begin to live their lives without fear of being degraded by this system of tests.

Featured Image by simon sun on Unsplash

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