Marie Stopes International (MSI) has been fighting against virginity testing in Afghanistan for years. Exciting progress was recently made as we helped secure a policy that stops virginity tests across all medical facilities in the country.
In a new piece, NPR highlights the work being done by MS Afghanistan, concurrent with efforts by the United Nations, World Health Organization and other global leaders to ban virginity testing worldwide. The United Nations is firm in their belief that “this medically unnecessary, and often times painful, humiliating and traumatic practice must end.”
The practice is sometimes administered if a girl simply walks down the street with a boy, according to MS Afghanistan Country Director Farhad Javid. The test – which does not actually prove if a woman has had sex or not – can result in young women being put into jail. While the law states that these women are to be put into jail for a maximum of three months, Javid explains that:
“Many are kept inside the jail for a year and a half—for nothing.”
Javid recently met with the Afghan President and First Lady to urge the release of 190 women and girls who are in jail for “failing” a virginity test. While visiting the prison where many of these women are held, Javid saw the horrible conditions and heard reports of sexual abuse by prison guards.
Over the next few months, MS Afghanistan will train hospital directors on the new policy that bans virginity testing, and our doctors who provide family planning services will help ensure that no such tests are administered. Javid also plans to meet with Islamic community leaders to convince them that the test is ineffective.
We are hopeful that the meeting with the President will provide steps for moving forward in banning virginity testing and justice for the women and girls who remain in prison.