Sunday, December 5

Parliamentarians Urged To Ban ‘Virginity Repair’ Surgery As Well As Virginity Tests | Women

The government’s promise to ban virginity testing will be undermined unless bogus surgery touted as “virginity repair” is also outlawed, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) warned.

Last month, ministers pledged to criminalize the invasive and unscientific “tests” offered by some private clinics to determine if someone is a virgin through an exam to see if the hymen is intact.

However, there are no plans to ban a procedure that the same doctors claim can “restore virginity” by building a layer of skin at the entrance to the vagina to create the illusion of an intact hymen.

Generally, girls and women are forced to undergo surgery known as “hymenoplasty” by their relatives, who want to present them as a “pure newborn virgin” who will bleed on their wedding night.

In 2020, a Sunday Times investigation identified 22 private clinics across the UK that charge up to £ 3,000 for the procedure, which is performed under local anesthesia. Over the course of a year, some 9,000 people in the UK had Googled “hymenoplasty” and related terms, he found.

The RCOG claims that efforts to ban virginity testing will be compromised if procedures that “repair or rebuild” the hymen are not outlawed.

Dr Edward Morris, President of RCOG, said: “We believe that both procedures should be banned in the UK. Neither has any medical benefit and both are harmful practices that create and exacerbate social, cultural and political beliefs that place a false value on women and girls in relation to their sexual history.

“The ban on virginity testing is undermined without a hymenoplasty ban, as the two practices are inextricably linked.”

The hymen is a membrane with relatively few blood vessels, and according to the RCOG, studies have found that bleeding is not routinely seen after the first vaginal intercourse.

The World Health Organization is clear that the appearance of the hymen is not a reliable indicator of sexual intercourse and says that virginity tests are a violation of human rights.

Morris said doctors who repeated the medically incorrect claim that an intact hymen signifies a lack of vaginal intercourse and vice versa did not adhere to the General Medical Council’s ethical guidelines.

Diana Nammi, executive director of the IKWRO Women’s Rights Organization, said hymenoplasty is a form of violence against women and girls and a harmful practice that can allow forced marriages.

“Banning virginity testing is essential, but alone it will not be enough to protect many of the girls and women we work with. They tell us that they do not choose to undergo this procedure of their own free will, but that it is always because they are under pressure to present themselves as virgins, ”she said.

“And if a girl does not bleed on her wedding night, which hymenoplasty does not guarantee, she is at an even greater risk of honor-based abuse.”

MP Richard Holden hopes for cross-party support for two clauses banning virginity testing and hymenoplasty that he has introduced for the health and care bill that is passing through parliament.

He said: “Doctors perform virginity tests and hymen repair surgeries to check or ‘restore’ the virginity of girls and women, often before marriage. These practices are not based on science, are abusive and perpetuate dangerous myths. “

The government has already pledged to ban virginity tests in their strategy of violence against women and girls, but hymenoplasty was not mentioned.

He confirmed that he would legislate to make virginity tests illegal at the “first chance.”

The Department of Health and Welfare said it remained concerned about the practice of hymenoplasty and said it intended to establish a panel of independent experts to examine the clinical and ethical aspects of the surgery.

Case Study: ‘I was so confused and scared’

Hafsah, a British woman whose family is from Kurdistan, described how her parents pressured her to undergo surgery after a stranger raped her at the age of 15.

Speaking for the first time about the attack and subsequent abuse, she recalled: “I had stayed late at school to catch up on my studies and was walking home in the dark when they grabbed me from behind. I tried to defend myself, but my attacker ripped my pants off. “

When he got home he tried to hide the assault, but his mother noticed that his clothes were torn and muddy.

“It was argued that if she didn’t bleed, she wasn’t a virgin. They wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom on my own and when there was no blood my mom went crazy. They concluded that I must have had sex before which I hadn’t. “

For months, Hafsah was harassed by her family, who told her they could “fix her shame.”

She said: “At first I didn’t know what they meant, but they said there was a surgery that would make me a girl again. My dad said ‘we have a solution, we have faith in you’. He was smiling, but I was so confused and scared. “

Her mother used a tissue to demonstrate how a cape would be used to create a fake hymen that would tear when she had sex.

“She whispered to me, ‘When it’s your first night you will bleed like a pure newborn virgin,'” said Hafsah, whose true identity we are protecting. “All they cared about was that I bleed on my wedding night.”

Hafsah, now in his 30s, said: “I told them I didn’t want the surgery, but for over a year they used emotional blackmail to try to persuade me.”

The harassment affected her mental health and only stopped when she secretly married, became pregnant and was disowned by her father.

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