Virginity tests don’t prove a woman has had sex, or if she’s virtuous. But virginity tests do cause women shame and pain.
At least 20 countries still use the antiquated procedure, and the UN is committed to stopping gynecological examinations intended to measure virgin status, worth, and moral dignity, the Associated Press reports.
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The World Health Organization (WHO), UN Women, and the UN Human Rights office decided the tests used to see if a woman is worthy of marriage, or employment, are “medically unnecessary,” according to a joint statement.
Virginity testing is a discriminatory, humiliating and traumatic practice that violate the #HumanRights and dignity of women and girls and must end.— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) October 17, 2018
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Doctors, police, and community leaders often inspect a woman’s hymen or insert their fingers into the vagina to conduct the invasive inspection, which the UN says hasn’t been shown to determine if a woman has had vaginal intercourse. A girls’ hymen can be broken due to many reasons other than penetrative sex.
In some places, including Afghanistan, virginity testing is conducted on rape survivors to decide if the alleged rape actually happened. The practice can be extremely harmful by causing physical pain, triggering the original act of sexual violence, making the survivor feel disempowered and causing revictimization, the UN explained in its statement.
Read More: The Humiliating Test Women Must Undergo in Afghanistan After Sexual Assault
“Given that these procedures are unnecessary and potentially harmful, it is unethical for doctors or other health providers to undertake them. Such procedures must never be carried out,” the UN wrote.