Often it is young women from strictly religious families who “test” their virginity at the doctor’s before a planned wedding, or have a possibly torn hymen repaired by surgery. Two medically pointless procedures that may soon be banned in parts of the UK.
There is currently heated debate in parts of the UK about two medical interventions that don’t seem to fit right into the 21st century: doctor virginity tests and hymen reconstructive surgery. Both treatments are particularly popular with conservative, strictly religious girls, women and their families. In England and Wales this should soon be over – at least legally.
The virginity of a future bride is still important in many conservative families, and an intact hymen is considered evidence of this. From a medical point of view, however, this is nonsense, the World Health Organization (WHO) made clear, because it can also tear through the use of tampons, during sports or just like that. It doesn’t tell you whether someone has had sex or not. However, this idea still prevails among many people.
The hymen is a myth
Before a planned wedding, it is particularly often Muslim women who either have a virginity test carried out in clinics in order to be able to “confirm” their virginity in writing to their future husband and his family, or have their hymen restored to shame for themselves and their family or to spare worse consequences.
The English MP Richard Holden has now called for a clause to be included in the Health and Care Act that prohibits both such tests and operations. Doctors or midwives who do it anyway would face jail sentences. The WHO and the UN have long classified virginity tests as a violation of human rights.
Strictly religious families insist on tests
In the event of a ban, however, there is a risk that doctors and midwives will continue these practices illegally or that women abroad will undergo these questionable procedures. In both cases, control and regulation would be more difficult or impossible, which would ultimately be at the expense of the women concerned. Whether there will actually be a ban in England and Wales must now be voted on in Parliament.