AFGHANISTAN. Herat. The mandatory virginity examination is still being exercised across Afghanistan widely even though it became illegal in 2018. According to Afghan custom, a girl must stay a virgin until she is married. A single girl who is no longer believed to be a virgin is a stigma to her entire family.
Recent research published by Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission on Sunday found forced gynecological virginity exams are still performed across Afghanistan without the consent of the women or with a court order. The commission interviewed 129 women from 13 provinces in Afghanistan and found that 78 (92%) were forced to undergo the virginity test without their consent or court order. Most of the victims were prisoners, 7% were in police custody, and just one voluntarily underwent testing.
Virginity tests illegal
Article 640 of the Afghan Penal Code restricts virginity tests to the consent of the woman being tested. These tests continue to be exercised for proving crimes of rape, sex outside marriage (zena), or sodomy.
Out of 129 respondents, 26 (20.2%) said that they felt extreme hatred towards those who subjected them to the gynecological examination, 22 (17.1%) said they felt hatred towards the doctor who conducted the test, and six (4.7%) said they hated their family for it.
In an interview with Transcontinental Time, a 27 year-old from Herat shared on condition of anonymity, “I was asked to take virginity examination to prove that I am a virgin. I felt like I have done a crime despite being a virgin,” she said, calling it the worst day of her life.
“I can never forget those moments where my whole body was trembling and I could do nothing but to be patient to get rid of the allegations against me.”
When a girl is suspected to have had sexual relations with a boy or escaped out of home, the court offers medical testing to prove her innocence.
An international call to ban the examinations
The United Nations, and the World Health Organization called for a global ban on the practice, adding that such tests have no scientific basis to prove a woman has had sex. The United Nations further called the virginity examinations a violence against women and women’s dignity.
“First of all, these practices are abusive. Unfortunately, in our conservative society, many of our people and families mistakenly believe that virginity can be determined because the hymen is torn. There are some virgins who are born without any hymen.” Amena Asna, a social activist from Herat told Transcontinental Times.
Meanwhile, aside from the virginity examinations that are said to have no scientific validity, many doctors in Herat are illegally repairing the torn hymens “to save a girl’s reputation” and to run a profitable business as they told Afghanistan Women’s News Agency.