Pakistan bans “virginity tests” after rape

Pakistan bans “virginity tests” after rape

Demonstration in Pakistan

People demonstrate after an incident in September 2020 in which two men dragged a woman and her children out of their car, raped the mother in front of the family, and then stole her money and cell phones. Thousands of women in Pakistan took to the streets after gang rape out of indignation over the reaction of a police chief and, together with men and children, also called for justice for rape victims. They issued posters calling for an end to sexual violence and harassment. The police chief blamed the victim for the rape himself.

© Fareed Khan / AP / DPA

The United Nations has been calling for the abolition of so-called virginity tests on rape victims for two years. Now this has finally been met in Pakistan.

Pakistan has banned a controversial and unscientific practice of allegedly verifying the virginity of women. The so-called two-finger tests are illegal and violate the Pakistani constitution, the high court in the eastern city of Lahore said on Monday.

In invasive practice, doctors check rape victims to see whether the hymen of the girls or women is intact. The tests, which have been conducted for decades, have no scientific or clinical basis, according to the United Nations (UN).

Painful, humiliating, and traumatic

For two years now, the UN has been calling for an end to the so-called virginity tests. The tests increase gender inequality, according to human rights activists. The appearance of the hymen of girls or women could not prove whether they had intercourse or are sexually active, said the UN. The examination could also be painful, humiliating and traumatic. The court also followed this line of argument.

In Pakistan, human rights activists launched a petition in March to end the practice. The Ministry of Law and Justice had already recommended in October that the tests should not be part of criminal investigations.

International violation of human rights

“Virginity tests” are internationally regarded as a human rights violation. They are outlawed under Article 7 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 16 of the Convention against Torture. Pakistan has ratified both treaties.

In December, laws against rapists were tightened in Pakistan. In the future, sex offenders will face chemical castration or the death penalty in particularly serious cases of rape or child abuse. The new regulations are seen as a reaction to several sex crimes that had sparked outrage in the South Asian country.


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