Afghanistan Forensic Science Organization (AFSO) is deeply concerned about the use of hymen examinations with the purpose of conducting so-called “virginity tests” which are used to prosecute women in Afghanistan for so-called moral crimes. These discriminatory and degrading examinations not only lack scientific or medical basis, but also – when conducted in circumstances of duress – amount to torture.
It should be noted that AFSO’s work is directed towards stopping the practice of hymen examinations in the context of determining “virginity” – whether a woman has or has not had sexual intercourse. AFSO acknowledges the need for a comprehensive gynecological examination to be carried out in cases of alleged sexual assault, in accordance with internationally recognised guidelines.
In the course of our forensic capacity building work in Afghanistan, we learned that the Legal Medicine Directorate and some hospitals routinely performs “virginity tests” in cases where women and girls are suspected of adultery (zena) under article 427(1) of Afghanistan’s penal code, attempted adultery (qasd zena), or running away from home (faraar az khana). These examinations are purportedly undertaken to establish whether a woman has had sexual intercourse or can be considered a ‘virgin’.
There is no medical or scientific evidence to support the belief that the state of a woman’s hymen can be used to determine whether or not a woman has experienced sexual intercourse. Similarly, there is no medical or scientific evidence to support the mistaken assumption that a woman who has not previously experienced sexual intercourse will bleed on her wedding night. Numerous medical studies undertaken in different contexts and different countries over time, clearly disprove the idea that a woman’s hymen is indicative of her sexual status.
AFSO has been raising awareness, conducting workshops and advocating for an end to the practice of hymen examinations to purportedly determine ‘virginity’ in Afghanistan.
AFSO demands that the Afghan government must end virginity testing and ban the practice. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has also recently released a report “Forced Gynecological Exams as Sexual Harassment and Human Rights Violation” which outline the issues in Afghanistan. AIHRC also demands the Afghan Government to ban end gynecological examination for purpose of determining women sexual status.
For further information on this practice, and why it is wrong, please read the Physicians for Human Right’s forensic brief titled “Virginity and Hymen Testing: No Factual, Scientific, or Medical Basis” here.