REPORT: Afghan women are subjected to ‘virginity testing’

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Women in the U.S. are afforded rights and luxuries that women in Muslim-majority countries only dream of. For instance, young women in Afghanistan are constantly under suspicion for being “immoral.” Just the act of accepting a ride home from someone of the opposite sex is likely to spark an “investigation” to determine whether teenage women are still virgins.

A report in the BBC tells the story of one 18 year old Afghanistan woman named Neda who recently endured such a scenario:

It was 2015 and she had just finished a late-night theatre rehearsal. The walk home would have taken nearly two hours. So, together with another girl, she accepted a lift from two male friends.

Coming from a working-class background, Neda says her weekly pocket money didn’t cover her everyday costs. Her mother often asks her to go without lunch if she has to pay for a ride back home.

“Even to this day, I sometimes blame myself for being in this situation… for getting in a car with men. I blame myself for bringing shame upon my family. But I also know that was my only way of getting home”.

After receiving a complaint, Bamiyan authorities suspected that they had engaged in premarital sex on their journey back home. Neda and her friend were taken in for questioning.

“I was accused of debauchery and sent to the medical centre for a virginity test,” Neda says as she clasps her hands around her tea cup.

The doctors reported that her hymen was still intact. Her case, however, is still travelling through Afghanistan’s judicial hierarchy.

Neda has been cleared of the charges by the local prosecutor’s office. But, astonishingly, her case now has to be ruled on by the state Supreme Court. It is yet to make a decision.

“Virginity tests don’t have any scientific basis and should be banned. The test is in violation of the country’s Constitution, Islamic law and international regulations,” Soraya Sobhrang, a commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, told the BBC.

As a result of this archaic practice, businesses have popped up to capitalize on the suffering of women by promising  to restore virginity by repairing their hymen. It’s beyond illegal and invasive, and it is also dangerous and expensive. However, a woman’s virginity is a highly-prized possession, seen as a symbol of modesty and purity. If a woman is thought to have had premarital sex, the public humiliation might accompany a prison sentence or even lead to an honor killing.

The third-world country has no official statistics, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the tests are a common occurrence in Afghanistan.

One female gynecologist interviewed, Bobani Haidari of Bamiyan Province, told the BBC that she can be asked to perform 10 virginity tests in a single day. And it’s not uncommon for women to have undergone multiple tests.

Forced virginity tests are legal in Afghanistan. The test is often ordered by prosecutors and law enforcement officers in cases where women are accused of committing “moral crimes.”

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