There is no reason for virginity tests if women are not property and not degraded as such.
In a scorching rebuke to the traditional “science” of forcing Afghani women to undergo “virginity exams,” Human Rights Watch has strongly denounced the practice. For reasons that border on the ludicrous, women are routinely forced to undergo these exams, which are purported to identify “zina,” or sex outside of marriage.
Reasons could include if a woman runs away, for instance. Never mind if she might have been running from an abusive situation at home, or even as the result of other sexual trauma. She would still be forced to undergo an examination that amounts to little more than a repeated sexual assault.
Or in some cases, women have been forced to undergo the examinations just for sitting next to a man.
Let’s repeat that: women and girls can have their bodies violated by men who claim to be able to tell if a woman is a virgin based on whether her hymen is intact, all as a result of the “violation” of having sat next to a man
And to add insult to injury, as a test of virginity, the existence or absence of a hymen is of course nonsense.
As HRW put it, “Many people mistakenly believe that virginity can be determined because the hymen is always broken when a woman or girl has sexual intercourse for the first time. This is simply not true. Some girls are born without a hymen; hymens often break during daily non-sexual activities, and some hymens remain intact after sexual intercourse. Purported virginity exams are so unreliable that the World Health Organization has said that they have no scientific validity and health workers should never conduct them.”
Accuracy aside, the sense of violation for a woman undergoing such an exam is difficult to imagine. Especially if she is already the victim of sexual abuse. And these so=called tests are not rare. According to a recent study by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) the virginity exams are widespread throughout the country, mostly without the consent of the victim.
Worse still, “evidence” from these exams can be presented in court as scientific proof for or against virginity.
Afghanistan isn’t alone in continuing this cruel and wrong-headed tradition. South Africa, Turkey and India have all been called out for the practice. In Singapore in 2014 an outcry forced the discontinuation of the exams that were routinely performed on female police recruits.
For their part, the AIHRC has proposed a ban on forced virginity exams within Afghanistan. But the fact that such a proposal still must be voiced in 2016 is appalling, especially in a country that has been the recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer largesse. It’s time for Congress to put its human rights money where its mouth is and just say to aiding countries that routinely abuse women.