VIRGINITY TESTING AND HYMENOPLASTY

Virginity testing is an abusive practice which is be-
coming increasingly common in the UK. Not only is
virginity testing itself invasive and traumatic, but its
very existence is a potential tool in abusers’ armoury
which they use to subjugate women. One victim
known to Freedom Charity describes the experience
as a “violation” and sexual assault”, which is why
freedom Charity is working to outlaw this abhorrent
practice.

THE ABUSIVE PRACTICES OF VIRGINITY
TESTING AND HYMENOPLASTY

Virginity testing and hymenoplasty are abuses of women’s rights which are totally counter to British values. In Britain in 2021, it is simply intolerable that anyone – let alone children and young people – should live under this threat, and that a money-making industry has been allowed to develop as a result of it.

Virginity testing is becoming increasingly common in the UK. Not only is the practice itself invasive and traumatic, but its very existence is a potential tool in abusers’ armoury which they use to subjugate women. It is a means of control and is especially damaging because there are many varied reasons why a girl’s hymen may become damaged before she becomes sexually active. One victim known to Freedom Charity has described virginity testing as a “violation” and “sexual assault”.

At Freedom Charity, we are receiving more and more calls to our helpline about virginity testing and have been approached by numerous women seeking funds to have hymenoplasty surgery in response to family pressure to provide ‘proof’ of virginity. Usually it is the proposed groom’s family that demand photographic

and medically certificated evidence of virginity before allowing a marriage to take place. Freedom Charity is not able to respond to such requests.

There is a whole regressive and horrifying industry, built on the threat of virginity testing. To tackle it, Freedom Charity believes that this threat needs to be completely removed through legislation. If we can take that threat away, this tool in abuser’s armoury and the traumatic steps victims must take in response in order to ‘prove’ virginity, including hymenoplasty and displaying artificial blood, can be removed too.

As a Charity which works with survivors of Female Genital Mutilation and which was instrumental in the criminalisation of Forced Marriage, Freedom Charity has seen first-hand the value such legislation can have, not just in the prosecution of persecutors but also in the message it sends to communities and potential victims.

Alongside the kind of educational programmes which charities like Freedom run, we believe that such legislation would make a real difference in the lives of countless girls and women in the UK.

“It is peddling a myth. That is totally inaccurate. It’s unscientific. It is an incredibly intimate act in which a woman can find themselves humiliated and degraded. And it can have harmful effects both physical and mental for years to come.”

Rothna Begam
Senior Researche,
Human Rights Watch

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