End Virginity Testing
Following our recent campaign, there has been significant progress.
From 1st July 2022, the UK government has made it illegal to carry out, offer or aid and abet virginity testing or hymenoplasty in any part of the UK under the Health and Care Act 2022. Virginity tests breach women’s and girls’ fundamental rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), including the right to be free from torture and inhuman treatment and the right to private and family life.
We would like to thank our survivors, charities, MPs and campaign experts that enabled this change to happen.
Virginity testing and hymenoplasty: multi-agency guidance
This non-statutory guidance offers advice for chief executives, directors, senior managers, frontline professionals within agencies and anyone else who may come in to contact with women and girls affected by virginity testing and hymenoplasty.
We believe that every woman deserves the right to make any decision about her body – free from shame, stigma or discrimination, without pressure to subscribe to ‘gender-based societal norms’, and without fear of harm. This is why we are campaigning to end the practice of virginity testing and hymen repair, in addition to tackling the shame and stigma commonly associated to ‘virginity’. ‘Virginity’ is a deeply embedded social norm that has no scientific basis.
We recognise virginity testing and hymen repair to be forms of Violence Against Women and Girls, which in itself is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. In our recent written submission to the Call for Evidence on the Home Office Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, we have invited the government to support our call for legislative changes to enable full protection for women and girls from this hidden harm. Virginity testing is rarely an isolated incident of abuse, it is often associated with other behaviours that discriminate against, limit or harm women and girls. In our experience, this can include other forms of Honour Based Abuse, such as forced marriage.
In the last two years, disclosures relating to virginity testing and hymen repair surgery have increased to our national Honour Based Abuse helpline. Between 2020 and 2021, our national Helpline supported 41 women and girls, where ‘sex before marriage’ / not being a ‘virgin’, was recognised as the motive for abuse from perpetrators. The World Health Organisation recognises the practice of virginity testing as a violation of human rights, with both immediate and long-term consequences that are detrimental to the physical, psychological and social well being of women and girls.
In November 2020, Karma Nirvana worked with the BBC in a joint investigation looking into virginity testing and hymenoplasty in the UK. The investigation identified 21 clinics that would carry out hymen-repair surgery, costing in the region of £1,300-£3,000. Data from NHS England shows 69 hymen-repair procedures have been carried out in the past five years.
Virginity Myths: Shining the Spotlight on Virginity Testing and Hymenoplasty
We have produced a report on the extent of this harmful practice in the UK, and its impact, along with our proposals for change.
Campaign news articles:
It’s 2021 and women are still being sent by men to have their virginity checked in the UK, Glamour Magazine, 9 Feb 2021
Girls forced to undergo ‘medieval’ virginity tests at UK clinics, The Independent, 12 Jan 2021
Virginity tests to be banned in Britain in huge law change, Express, 12 Dec 2020
Controversial ‘virginity tests’ sold by UK clinics, BBC, 27 Nov 2020
‘Virginity tests’ are being offered to women at UK medical clinics, Metro, 27 Nov 2020
‘Restoring virgins’ is a big earner for British surgeons, The Times, 12 Jan 2020
Virginity tests on their wedding night and grotesque ‘repair’ operations…, Mail on Sunday, 16 Jan 2021