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Testing girls for virginity violates their human rights, says UN

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A group of United Nations agencies has issued a joint statement calling for a ban on tests meant to assess the virginity of any female .
The statement, issued during the World Congress of Gynaecology and Obstetrics in Rio de Janeiro , stressed that such tests are both unscientific, and a violation of human rights .

The UN agencies are : the UN Human Rights Office , UN Women and the World Health Organisation .

“ So -called virginity testing — also often referred to as hymen , two – fingers or per vaginal examination — is a gynaecological inspection of female genitalia carried out in the false belief that it can reliably determine whether a woman or girl has had vaginal intercourse , ” the group said .

In a global call to eliminate violence against women and girls everywhere, the UN agencies said that “ this medically unnecessary , and often times painful, humiliating and traumatic practice , must end . ”

The practice is a long -standing tradition documented in at least 20 countries , and spanning all regions of the world .

Women and girls are often forced to undergo virginity testing for various reasons , including requests from parents or potential partners to establish marriage eligibility or even from potential employers .

It is mostly performed by doctors , police officers , or community leaders on women and girls , in order to assess their virtue , honour or social value .

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In their statement, the UN agencies explained that the practice has “ no scientific or clinical basis” and that “ there is no examination that can prove a girl or woman has had sex . ”

The agencies added that the “ appearance of girl ’ s or woman ’ s hymen cannot prove whether they have had sexual intercourse or are sexually active or not . ”

In addition, the UN agencies denounced virginity testing as a violation of the rights of girls and women , which can be detrimental to their physical , psychological and social well – being .

The examination can be “ painful, humiliating and traumatic ” and reinforces stereotyped notions of female sexuality and gender inequality .

In some regions , it is common for health professionals to perform virginity testing on victims of rape , supposedly to ascertain whether or not rape occurred , they said .

Given the lack of clinical basis, the procedure is deemed “ unnecessary ” and “ can cause pain and mimic the original act of sexual violence , exacerbating survivors ’ sense of disempowerment and cause re – victimisation , ” the agencies said .

“ The result of this unscientific test can impact upon judicial proceedings , often to the detriment of victims and in favour of perpetrators , sometimes resulting in perpetrators being acquitted .

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“ 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 joint statement read , calling for a collaborative response across societies , supported by the public health community and all health professionals .

Encouraging health professionals to take a stand against the practice , WHO’ s Assistant Director -General for Family , Women ’ s , Children ’ s and Adolescents ’ Health , Dr . Princess Simelela , said : “ Health professionals can be great agents for change .

“ With support from health systems and governments , they can recognise that virginity testing has no medical or clinical bases , refuse to carry out the harmful practice , and educate the public about this, ” Simelela noted .

The WHO official added that , in doing so, they would be “ upholding the Hippocratic oath of ‘ do no harm ’ and safeguarding the human rights of girls and women in their care. ”

( NAN )

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