By Lois Barker
Sub-Edited by Jasmine Wing
Girls have been forced to endure so-called “virginity tests” at UK medical clinics, according to campaigners and politicians who are lobbying for the “medieval” practice to end.
A BBC investigation discovered 21 clinics were offering so-called virginity resting in the UK and they were charging between £150 and £300.
Highly-intrusive and potentially traumatic vaginal examinations are undergoing on females to see if the hymen is intact, the United Nations have deemed them to be a serious infringement on their human rights. The World Health Organisation called this practice a sham because the hymen can rip for a number of reasons such as doing exercise or using a tampon.
Richard Holden, Conservative MP for North West Durham, introduced a bill outlawing virginity testing which is due to have a second reading in parliament (the date for this is yet to be confirmed).
He has said that getting a virginity test is “far too easy” and warned that young women and girls are being pushed into the procedure. He has urged the government to outlaw virginity testing and added that authorities do not record or regulate the practice as it is not illegal.
Mr Holden’s ten-minute rule bill has cross-party support and said “It’s a total throwback to a medieval practice which people don’t realise is still going on in modern Britain. People are genuinely shocked it is still going on. It embodies the worst aspects of an archaic culture which sees women as property and as marriage material for men rather than people with their own lives and rights. I was disturbed when I read reports this is going on. As the World Health Organisation points out – there is no scientific basis for it.”
The director of Karma Nirvana, Natasha Rattu, a national charity which supports victims of honour-based abuse, has spoken on the subject before. They have encountered virginity testing in the work they do with survivors. Rattu has said “It is definitely very hidden. it is a form of violence and abuse against women and girls. Victims are made to prove their virginity to be honourable and to be respected among family and the community. It is also about modesty and purity – women will not be viewed as pure if they have had relationships outside of marriage.
“We have had cases where victims have been asked to prove themselves after being seen with a boy and asked if they gave had sexual relations. The evidence out there won’t reflect the scale of the problem because sexual abuse is hard for victims to talk about. Many of these girls aren’t taught to speak openly about things of a sexual nature.”
Ministers are considering dropping references to honour-based abuse in the recording of crimes such as forced marriage, coercive control and female genital mutilation, sparking fears that offences could go undetected.
Under the current system, certain offences – which also includes threats to kill, assault, attempt murder, and murder – are recorded under the blanket label of honour-based abuse. Ministers are believed to want to scrap the term to avoid falsely linking such crimes to “honour” – the Home Office is due to review the use of the term in a meeting with charities this month.