I welcome the Government’s plan to criminalise “virginity testing” as part of a wider plan to protect women from abuse.
Karma Nirvana is a specialist charity supporting victims and survivors of honour-based abuse in the UK. In 2020-21, the charity’s national Honour Based Abuse Helpline received over 12,500 calls.
I believe that every woman deserves the right to make any decision about her body – free from shame, stigma or discrimination, and without pressure to subscribe to “gender-based societal norms”.
Virginity testing has no scientific merit – the appearance of a hymen is not a reliable indication of having had intercourse. The World Health Organisation recognises the practice as a clear violation of the victim’s human rights.
In many cases, females who know they will fail or have failed a “virginity test” will resort to surgical solutions to avoid the consequences of “not being a virgin”.
Hymenoplasty is a surgical procedure to reconstruct the hymen.
Medical websites describe it as a “simple procedure that involves stitching the torn edges of the hymen together with dissolvable stitches”.
In reality, those who have had the procedure say it causes significant physical and psychological trauma.
Virginity testing is often associated with cultural norms that expose women and girls to stigma, and perceived shame and dishonour to themselves, their families and communities.
Women or girls can be ostracised or even killed because they have had (or are believed to have had) sexual intercourse outside of cultural norms – for example, before marriage.
Child marriage is even used in some communities as a “protective” measure to avoid the shame and consequences of a girl having sexual intercourse before marriage.
Between 2020 and 2021, the Karma Nirvana helpline supported 41 women where “sex before marriage” was the motive for abuse from perpetrators.
In November 2020, the charity worked with the BBC to investigate virginity testing and hymenoplasty in the UK. The investigation identified 21 clinics that would carry out hymen repair surgery, which costs between £1,300 and £3,000.
Data from NHS England shows 69 such procedures were carried out in the last five years.
Sommer, 17, told how she was dragged to a London clinic to have her virginity “tested”.
She said: “I have never had sex, but the clinic said my hymen was not intact. So my parents booked for me to have my hymen repaired.”
Mia, 23, reported: “I’m so scared because my parents want me to abort my baby. They have planned to have my hymen repaired after the abortion so I can be married off as a virgin.”
In 2002, Heshu Yones was forced to have a virginity test, which she allegedly failed, making her “unmarriageable”.
Her subsequent murder was the first in the UK to be recognised as an “honour killing”.
Virginity testing and hymenoplasty have no place in modern Britain.
They must be outlawed now.