News : Case study

​"Virginity tests" violate women's rights, Commission reports

Graphic: Dr Sima Samara, Chairperson, and Commissioner Sorya Sobhrang

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has described so-called "virginity tests" by state doctors as a violation of the rights of women.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has urged the government to take measures against the practice of so-called "virginity tests" by state doctors that it says are a violation of the rights of women.

A study by the Commission found that women and girls accused of having sex outside marriage - a criminal offense in Afghanistan - are often forced to undergo "invasive" and "humiliating" tests by government doctors.

Girls as young as 13 years were among those who reported being forced to undergo the test, as were some women who were merely accused of leaving their homes without permission, which is not a crime under Afghan law.

In the report published on 29 February 2016, the Commission said 48 of 53 women whom it interviewed in 2015 had been subjected to compulsory gynecological exams by law-enforcement officials.

"Since gynecological tests are conducted without consent of the victim, it can be considered sexual harassment and human rights violation," the Commission noted.

The report said most of the tests included invasive genital and anal exams that were carried out in the presence of male guards and others, and often amounted to "torture" with "horrible effects and consequences".

Nearly half of those tested were examined more than once, the report said.

The exams purportedly verify whether a woman has been sexually active outside of marriage.

However, Commissioner Sorya Sobhrang, who is a gynecologist by profession, said the veracity of such tests has been widely challenged by medical doctors and scientists.

"There are no medical forensics specialists ... [or] DNA tests in Afghanistan, therefore it's impossible here to determine ... whether the woman was raped or had sex outside marriage," Sobhrang told RFE/RL's Tajik Service.

In a culture where great value is attached to a woman's virginity, the "aggressive" exams can damage a woman's personal dignity, emotional health, and social status, the report warned.

In some cases, women unable to prove they were virgins on their wedding day have faced violence and some have been killed, the Commission said.

The report is available on the Commission's website.

Date: 1 March 2016

Source: RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan


Image credits

  1. Dr Sima Samara, Chairperson, and Commissioner Sorya Sobhrang - Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission