Pakistan bans infamous 'virginity test' on sexual assault survivors

WION Web Team
Lahore, Pakistan Published: Jan 05, 2021, 07.27 PM(IST)

(Representative image) Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

This test is a common practice in a few countries around the globe, especially Pakistan where the test is conducted to assess a girl's 'honour or virtue'

In a historic decision, the Lahore High Court has declared virginity tests on sexual assault survivors to be illegal and announced that the practice has "no medical basis" and "offends the personal dignity of the female victim and therefore is against the right to life and right to dignity."

Till now, all sexual assault survivors are put through a virginity test, which is conducted by inspecting the hymen or inserting two fingers into the vagina. This practice, apparently, determines whether or not a woman is a virgin.

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This test is a common practice in a few countries around the globe, especially Pakistan where the test is conducted to assess a girl's "honor or virtue", according to World Health Organization.

However, in a landmark ruling, the Lahore High Court declared this practice to be illegal. The concern was raised in two petitions in June 2020 by a group of women's rights activists, academics, journalists, advocates and a member of the National Assembly who requested a ban on this test claiming it to be 'unscientific, intrusive, demeaning and a source of retraumatization'.

Declaring it to be discriminatory against women, Justice Ayesha Malik said there was "no forensic value in cases of sexual violence" and asked the concerned government officials to issue directives to ensure a written an oral guideline is passed immediately to put a permanent ban on these virginity tests.

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"Virginity testing is highly invasive, having no scientific or medical requirement, yet carried out in the name of medical protocols in sexual violence cases. It is a humiliating practice, which is used to cast suspicion on the victim, as opposed to focusing on the accused and the incident of sexual violence," Malik said in the official court documents.

Pakistan's Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari took to Twitter to thank Justice malik for her decision and said the decision "is a bold and clear judgement against the demeaning and absurd "two-finger test". A landmark judgement indeed. It also strengthens the ban placed on this test in the anti-rape ordinance against the detractors."

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The petitioners and women rights groups applauded the decision by the Lahore High Court and emphasised the impact this decision would have on women's rights in general too. "This is so important because so much emphasis has been placed in our culture as the hymen being signifier of the purity of a woman," said Sahar Bandial, an advocate of the Lahore High Court and one of the lawyers who filed the petition. "There is an inference that the woman is of easy virtue and likely to have consented to sexual activity."

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