By Sharif Paget
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) proposes governments worldwide to put an end to “virginity tests” performed on women and girls according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The WHO handbook published in November states “there is no place for virginity (or ‘two-finger’) testing”. The handbook goes on to add that the invasive practice has “no scientific validity”.
“Health authorities worldwide should end the practice of ‘virginity testing’ in all cases and prohibit health workers from perpetuating this discriminatory and degrading practice,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, a women’s rights director at HRW.
Gerntholtz added: “Authorities exploit this unscientific and degrading ‘test’ even though a woman’s sexual history has absolutely no bearing on whether she is qualified for a job in determining whether she was raped.”
HRW recently spoke out against the Indonesian government’s use of “virginity tests” for female applicants to the National Police, saying they are “discriminatory and degrading”.
In late 2011 several female Egyptian protesters who were arrested testified that they had undergone a “virginity test” by a military doctor. An Egyptian administrative court ruled that performing virginity tests on women in detention was “an illegal act and a violation of women’s rights and an assault on their dignity”.
However, the only military officer to be indicted in the 2011 “virginity test” trial was acquitted in March 2012. This verdict came only a month after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, then defence minister, appeared to defend the use of “virginity tests”. He said that the tests had been carried out “to protect the girls from rape, and the soldiers and officers from accusations of rape”, reported state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.
Women in the Middle East and North African countries are still “subjected to virginity testing in various circumstances, including at the behest of their families” according to the HRW.