Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020

Plans to jail doctors who conduct ‘virginity tests’ on brides before marriage

Doctors in France could be jailed for conducting controversial "virginity tests" before traditional religious marriages.

Virginity certificates which are issued by medics are against human rights and must be banned, according to the UN.

The French government has said fines and jail terms could be issued as part of draft legislation in a bid to combat what President Emmanuel Macron calls "Islamist separatism".

This bill, which is yet to be debated by politicians proposes jail time as well as a €15,000 (£14,000) fine, reports the BBC.

It comes as reports claim 30% of French doctors have been asked to conduct tests, though most of them have declined.

According to the World Health Organisation, "virginity tests" go against human rights, and inspecting the hymen with fingers or visually cannot determine whether a woman is a virgin or not.

Speaking to France Inter News, Gynaecologist Dr Ghada Hatem said: "In France, this doesn't affect thousands of women – I am asked by about three women maximum [for certificates] each year.

"Often it is girls from the Maghreb – Muslim-majority north-west Africa – who ask for them."

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She also said she had provided certificates for girls who feared being threatened by their families.

"If they say 'my brother will beat me up, my dad will strangle me, my in-laws will ruin my family's reputation' I have no reason to disbelieve them."

In October 2018, the UN urged countries to ban such tests, the body also called for campaigns to raise awareness among communities to "challenge myths related to virginity and harmful gender norms that place emphasis on control of women's and girls' sexuality and bodies".

However, French organisation ANCIC says educational work is needed to see a change in communities.

The organisation told the BBC: "A ban would simply deny the existence of such community practices, without making them disappear.

"We think this question must be tackled quite differently so that women and men free themselves and reject the weight of these traditions."

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