December 22, 2014
The International Forensic Expert Group (IFEG) has issued a statement on virginity testing, to which IFHHRO contributed. Virginity testing (also called virginity examination) is practiced in many countries to establish “proof” of sexual activity of females.
Virginity testing is a gynaecological examination that is intended to correlate the status and appearance of the hymen in females with previous sexual contact to determine whether a female has had or is habituated to sexual intercourse. The exam is conducted by visual inspection of the hymenal region, and is often combined with a ‘two-finger test’, which involves the insertion of one or more fingers into the vagina to assess the size of the vaginal opening and to check the degree of vaginal penetrability.
IFEG is a group of independent forensic specialists established by IRCT (International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims) to provide technical advice on specific issues, participate in missions to examine alleged torture survivors and draw up impartial medico-legal reports. The IFEG Statement concludes that:
“Virginity examinations are medically unreliable and inherently discriminatory, and, in almost all instances, when conducted forcibly, result in significant physical and mental pain and suffering. It is our opinion that forcibly conducted virginity examinations have no clinical or scientific value and constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and may amount to torture depending on the individual circumstances.
When virginity examinations are forcibly conducted and involve vaginal penetration, the examination should be considered a form of sexual assault and rape. The involvement of the health professional in these examinations is a violation of the basic standards and ethics of our profession.”