WHO, UN Human Rights and UN Women have issued a statement earlier this month calling for the elimination of so-called “virginity testing”.
“Virginity testing” has no scientific or clinical basis and it is a violation of the human rights of girls and women, and can be detrimental to women’s and girls’ physical, psychological and social well-being, the statement said.
The world bodies stressed that these procedures are unnecessary and potentially harmful, it is also unethical for doctors or other health providers to undertake them.
The statement further highlighted that virginity testing has been documented in many places, being a long-standing tradition in a number of countries.
In many settings such tests are considered part of assessment of survivors of rape. This is unnecessary, and can cause pain and mimic the original act of sexual violence, exacerbating survivors’ sense of disempowerment and cause re-victimization.
The WHO, UN Human Rights and UN Women statement also said that the result of this unscientific test can impact upon judicial proceedings, often to the detriment of victims and in favor of perpetrators, sometimes resulting in perpetrators being acquitted.
In addition, women prisoners and those in detention facilities are at heightened risk of abuse and mistreatment, including forced virginity examinations.
The UN agencies concluded that the elimination of the harmful practice will require a collaborative response from across society, supported by the public health community and health systems, including health professionals. Health professionals need to be effectively supported to refuse requests by appropriate laws and policies.