- Rachel Stonehouse
- BBC Newsbeat
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations consider them a violation of human rights and advocate for their prohibition.
But controversial “virginity tests” for women – which involve a vaginal exam to check if their hymen is intact – are offered even in British medical clinics, according to research by BBC Newsbeat and 100 Women.
Critics of the tests say the tests are unscientific and cannot verify whether or not a woman has had sexual intercourse, in addition to constituting a potential form of abuse.
But the BBC investigation contacted several of the private clinics that offer “virginity repair” procedures and found that several also offer the controversial tests, for prices ranging from £ 150 (US $ 200) to £ 300 (US $ 200). $ 400).
In total, the BBC identified 21 clinics and managed to contact 16, seven of which confirmed that they offer “virginity tests”. Others did not clarify their position.
But all were willing to perform hymen repair surgeries, which cost between £ 1,500 (US $ 2,000) and £ 3,000 (US $ 4,000).
According to data from the NHS England, in England there have been 69 hymen repair procedures in the last five years.
Newsbeat also spoke with a woman aided by the charity Karma Nirvana, which supports victims of what is known as honor-based abuse and forced marriage.
“I had a very emotionally abusive relationship with my parents, who wanted me to have an arranged marriage,” the woman said.
“And one day an elder from the community saw me with my friends and told my mother that one of the children was my boyfriend, which generated numerous rumors. a lot of rumors in the community about it, “he told Newsbeat.
Her parents then threatened her with a “virginity test.”
“My parents and the family of the man they wanted me to marry said that I had to take a virginity test to prove she was still a virgin so the marriage could move forward, “the woman recalled.
“I was scared and I really didn’t understand what it meant. I felt like running away was my only option, so that’s what I did,” she said.
Priya Manota runs the Karma Nirvana helpline and says the organization receives numerous calls from girls who are concerned about the issue.
“They may be concerned that their families have found out that they may have been in a relationship or that they are not virgins. It may be that the family is. pressing for it hagan the proof and they are worried about the result, “he explains.
According to Manota, the main triggers for honor-based abuse and forced marriage are being in a relationship, choosing one’s partner, and having an intimate or sexual relationship.
“And in the organization we know of many extreme cases in which the victims they have been murdered. Other victims may be disowned by their families, “he says.
Virginity tests are practiced in at least 20 countries, according to the WHO, which says there is no evidence that they can prove whether or not a woman or girl has had sex.
This is because the hymen can break for many reasons, including the use of tampons and exercise.
According to data from the WHO and UN Women, most of these tests are carried out in countries in Asia, the Middle East and in the north and south of the African continent, but cases have also been identified in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States , Jamaica, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden.
And the head of OHCHR’s Gender and Women’s Rights Unit, Veronica Birga, argues that the actual list is much more extensive, but since many of the tests are done “in secret”, it is very difficult to find data.
Last year, American rapper TI sparked outrage after admitting during a podcast that he takes his daughter to a test every year to check that her hymen is still intact.
The BBC also found hymen repair kits selling online for £ 50 (US $ 66) with the promise of “restore virginity“.
A kit bought for US $ 140 that arrived from Germany contained 60 ml of gel to tighten the vagina, plastic tweezers, a capsule of blood and three sachets that appear to contain fake blood, but no instructions on how to use it.
Dr. Ashfaq Khan is a gynecologist who regularly receives requests from patients for virginity testing and hymen repair.
“I don’t understand why it is not illegal in the UK, should bethe“, dice.
“The idea that the absence of a part of the hymen means that you are not a virgin is wrong in the first place. It can break for various reasons,” he explains.
“And if I said ‘it’s broken, I need to repair it’ and then I can give you a certificate, it would mean I’m giving a fake certificate“he adds.
Dr. Khan believes that further action must be taken against such practices, “in the same way that we brilliantly promote the issues of female genital mutilation.”
“For me, this is another crime, and we are associating ourselves with a procedure that it is not ethically and morally correct“, le dice a BBC Newsbeat.
Earlier this year, the Middle East Society and Women’s Organization launched a campaign to ban “virginity tests” in the UK and called for more education on the subject.
“Although we would like to eventually prohibit hymen repair, prohibit the practice without the proper education It will only do more harm than good, “said its founder, Halaleh Taheri.
“The only reason these practices are still a business is because of this backward mindset regarding virginity,” he explained
“So if we help educate our communities now reverse this beliefThen there would be no need to rebuild the hymen and these clinics would stick around if they work alone, “he said.
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