Ban virginity tests – Afghanistan rights panel
KABUL, Sept 3- Afghanistan’s human rights panel on Thursday backed an “unconditional ban” on virginity tests, saying they violate rights, lack scientific basis and do nothing to protect women. In Afghanistan, they can be conducted with the consent of a female or under court order if women and girls are accused of “moral crimes”, such as running away or pre-marital sex.
By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Sept 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Afghanistan’shuman rights panel on Thursday backed an “unconditional ban” onvirginity tests, saying they violate rights, lack scientificbasis and do nothing to protect women.
Virginity tests check whether a woman or girl’s hymen – thethin tissue that may partially cover the vagina – is torn, in aneffort to determine if she has had vaginal intercourse.
In Afghanistan, they can be conducted with the consent of afemale or under court order if women and girls are accused of”moral crimes”, such as running away or pre-marital sex.
But in the deeply conservative, male-dominated country,campaigners say women are often tested without consent.
Those who fail risk jail.
President Ashraf Ghani discourages testing but there is noban and the commission lacks the teeth to enforce one.
“Conditional ‘virginity examinations’ should be banned asthey have no scientific validity,” Shaharzad Akbar, head ofAfghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, told theThomson Reuters Foundation.
Her independent government panel has no power to enforce itsrecommendation and its decisions are seldom followed.
“I am not very optimistic about the possibility of (a) fulland unconditional ban but … we will keep pushing,” she said.
The United Nations calls virginity testing “painful,humiliating and traumatic” and wants it banned.
But women and girls still undergo the examination in severalcountries, including the United States, India and South Africa.
In conservative Afghanistan, where great value is attachedto female virginity, the “aggressive” exams can damage a woman’sdignity, emotional health and social status, the report said.
Its call came a day after a government committee approved adraft law that would make consent mandatory for virginity tests.
It would need parliament’s and presidential approval tobecome law. The parliament is on summer break until Sept. 21.
“Despite a court’s order or consent of a women, thisunscientific and violating act of human rights cannot bejustified for proving a crime”, said Shabnam Salehi, a KabulUniversity lecturer.(Reporting by Shadi Khan Saif, Writing by Annie [email protected], Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit theThomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of ThomsonReuters, that covers the lives of people around the world whostruggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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