A new investigation found that women are being offered controversial ‘virginity tests’ at medical clinics in the UK.
BBC Newsbeat and 100 Women worked together to find 21 clinics, who all appear to offer the service.
For between £150 and £300, these clinics claim these tests will prove if a woman is a virgin. Even more worryingly, the reporters found several clinics offering hymen repair surgery. These surgeries cost between £1,500 to £3,000.
Many organisations are working to have the tests banned as they go against human rights.
These tests can’t prove someone’s virginity, experts say. They can also be a form of abuse and control.
One woman featured in the investigation said her parents tried to force her to take the test. It involves a vaginal examination to see if the hymen is intact. She told the BBC: “I had a very emotionally abusive relationship with my parents who wanted me to have an arranged marriage.”
“One day, an elder in the community saw me out with my friends and said to my mum that one of the boys was my boyfriend. There were lots of rumours in the community about it” she explained. Because of this rumour, she was threatened with a ‘virginity test’ by her parents.
“My parents and the family of the man they wanted me to marry said I had to have a virginity test to prove I was still a virgin so the marriage could go ahead” the woman says. “I was scared and didn’t really understand what it meant. I felt running away was my only option – so that’s what I did.”
Of the 21 clinics, the BBC managed to speak to 16 of the clinics. Of those, seven confirmed they offer ‘virginity testing’ but others would say.
Each of the clinics said they would also carry out ‘virginity repair’. Data from NHS England shows 69 hymen-repair procedures have been carried out in the UK in the last 5 years.
Help is available
Karma Nirvana is a charity which helps victims of forced marriage and so-called honour-based abuse.
Priya Manota from the charity said: ‘We have received calls from girls who are concerned about this. It might be that they are worried their families have found out perhaps they’ve been in a relationship or they’re not a virgin.”
‘It might be family are pressuring them to go through with tests and they are concerned about the outcome of that. Triggers for honour-based abuse and forced marriage are being in a relationship, choosing your own partner and being in an intimate or sexual relationship” she added.
“We know at the charity many victims in extreme cases have been killed. For other victims it might be they are disowned by family” says Priya.
The World Health Organisation says there is no evidence that can prove whether a woman or girl has had sex or not.
Tampon use and exercise can cause the hymen to tear, and it has no say on whether someone is a virgin. At least 20 countries carry out virginity testing.
As well as the clinics, the investigation found ‘hymen-repair kits’ being sold online. The £50 kits claim to restore virginity.
What do you think should be done about these tests?
Image via Alamy