Thursday, June 16, 2011

The virginity test dispelled

Female virginity and the ability to prove an unmarried woman is a virgin are still vital to a family’s  ‘honour’ in many countries, but the members of the Myth Dispelled campaign group in the Netherlands say it’s actually impossible to prove by medical means whether a woman is still a virgin. They also say that virginity testing - highlighted by recent controversial cases in Egypt and India - is a powerful tool when it comes to oppressing women and actually violates their human rights. 
The whole issue of virginity made headlines recently with the humiliating testing of a number of alleged rape victims in India and 17 Egyptian women who took part in the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo. In the latter case, the aim of the tests appears to have been to ‘protect’ members of the Egyptian army against possible rape accusations.

Writing in a Dutch newspaper, Ineke van Seumeren – a gynaecologist at the UMC teaching hospital in Utrecht - and fellow Myth Dispelled (Mythe Ontkracht) member and chairperson Ines Balkema argue that virginity testing is pointless:  
“In many countries it’s still not known that female virginity cannot be medically proven. Even in the modern Netherlands many people are convinced that you can see or feel whether or not a woman is a virgin. The medical facts are different.”
 
The way such tests are carried out is often extremely primitive – one of the most common being the method of inserting two fingers into the vagina. Two fingers are said to be equal to the width of a penis. If the fingers enter ‘easily’, then the woman in question is assumed to have had sex before.
 
The Myth Dispelled foundation explains that the flexibility or tightness of a vagina and the condition of the hymen – the membrane that ‘closes’ the entrance to the cervix – say and prove nothing about the sexual activity, or lack thereof, of a woman.
 
In the opinion piece, the two women write: “The hymen is not a sealed membrane. In most cases it is a small, flexible lip; sometimes it’s hard and inflexible […].  It varies from woman to woman […]. A vagina is made to allow a baby to pass through; it’s an illusion to think that a vagina will expand because of something small like a penis.”
 
They argue that virginity testing is, in fact, a powerful tool when it comes to the continued oppression of women and they cite what happened in Cairo: “When the female protestors in Egypt underwent the virginity test, completely undressed, military personnel were there taking photographs. The result of practices like this is that women will think twice about demonstrating or filing a rape charge. This is a serious violation of women’s human rights…”
 
On a more positive note, the authors write that the recent cases have sparked debate about abolishing these mediaeval tests in both India and Egypt, adding that it’s now important to keep an eye on whether this actually happens and to keep on stressing that virginity isn’t something that can be proven or disproven by medical means.

Day Opening - June 17

bad, bad boy..))