So-called ‘virginity tests’ and the practice of hymen ‘repair’ surgery are both currently legal and are being conducted by doctors in the UK to ‘check’ or ‘restore’ the virginity of a woman, often prior to an arranged marriage.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that so-called ‘virginity testing’ is:
“A violation of the victims human rights and is associated with both immediate and long-term consequences that are detrimental to her physical, psychological and social well-being.”
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) strongly oppose the practices of virginity testing and hymenoplasty on the grounds that neither is medically required in any circumstance and support both the new clauses.
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said: “Women and girls deserve to grow up free from notions of ‘breaking their womanhood’ so they ‘bleed on their wedding night’. These traumatic practices have no basis in medical science, harm women and girls and perpetuate dangerous myths of ‘purity’.
“We must act now to stop both ‘virginity testing’ and hymen ‘repair’ surgery. That’s why I am backing New Clause 1&2 to the Health and Care Bill as I call on the Government to end this violence against women and girls for good."
New Clause 1 and New Clause 2 has received support from over 50 MPs from all main parties, including former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Women and Equalities Select Committee Chair Caroline Nokes, Plaid Cymru Leader Liz Saville Roberts, Lib-Dem Sarah Olney, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Jess Phillips, Women’s Health All-Party Parliamentary Group Chair Jackie Doyle-Price and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
The Government has committed to ‘work to criminalise virginity testing’ through their recently published strategy on tackling violence against women and girls but Women’s rights organisations Karma Nirvana, IKWRO, MEWSo, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and The Royal College of Midwives are calling for both virginity tests and hymenoplasty are banned at the same time in law.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said: “We are very concerned that women are either being coerced into having these procedures or feel pressurised into having them so they can bleed during sex and can demonstrate they are a virgin on their wedding night.
“The RCOG and the RCM want to see both virginity testing and hymenoplasty banned in the UK. This will send a clear message that there is no place in the medical world for these procedures and that women deserve the right to have ownership over their own sexual and reproductive health.”
Halaleh Taheri, founder and executive director MEWSo, said: “After a two year-long campaign we welcome these new clauses to ban virginity tests and hymenoplasty. These abusive practices should have been stopped long ago. Now it is the responsibility of the community leaders and the Government to reshape misguided attitudes about women's virginity and sexual control."