United Nations: Eliminating the Practice of Virginity Testing

The World Health OrganizationUN Women, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have released a joint report condemning the practice of virginity testing and calling for its removal from the medical practices of many countries worldwide. Virginity testing violates multiple basic human rights as well as international treaties. The report states that this practice has “no medical or scientific basis” and is exceedingly harmful to women for a multitude of reasons. For example, virginity testing is often used on sexual assault survivors as a means of determining whether or not she was raped. This has the two-fold impact of devaluing a survivor’s account as well as re-traumatizing the survivor.

The report further explains that the concept of virginity is neither medical nor scientific; rather, it is defined by cultural and societal expectations of female purity. The stigma associated with “failing” a virginity test leads some women to commit suicide and some families to kill women in the name of “honor.” The acceptance of virginity testing allows men to feel entitled to women's bodies and reinforces a sense of ownership.

The report ends by detailing the three main strategies to eliminate the prevalence of virginity testing: educating and training healthcare providers, building supportive legislature and policy frameworks, and empowering and mobilizing communities.

Compiled from: Eliminating Virginity Testing: An Interagency Statement, World Health Organization, UN Women, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2018); ‘Virginity Testing’: A Human Rights Violation, With No Scientific Basis – UN, UN News (October 17, 2018).