MEDWAY COUNCIL has joined a cross-party coalition of MPs, including local MP Tracey Crouch, in calling on the Government to ban so-called ‘virginity tests’ and the practice of hymen ‘repair’ surgery.
Newly elected Councillor Robbie Lammas brought forward a motion to back prohibiting the practices at his first full Council Meeting, which achieved unanimous support.
So-called ‘virginity tests’ and the practice of hymen ‘repair’ surgery are both currently legal and are being conducted by doctors in the UK to ‘check’ or ‘restore’ the virginity of a woman, often prior to an arranged marriage.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that so-called ‘virginity testing’ is:
“A violation of the victims human rights and is associated with both immediate and long-term consequences that are detrimental to her physical, psychological and social well-being.”
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) strongly oppose the practices of virginity testing and hymenoplasty on the grounds that neither is medically required in any circumstance.
New Clause 1 and New Clause 2 to the Health & Care Bill, currently in Commons Committee stage has received support from over 50 MPs from all main parties. Medway Council is the first local authority to publicly back the ban.
The Government committed to ‘work to criminalise virginity testing’ through their recently published strategy on tackling violence against women and girls but Women’s rights organisations Karma Nirvana, IKWRO, MEWSo, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and The Royal College of Midwives are calling for both virginity tests and hymenoplasty are banned at the same time in law as soon as possible.
Cllr Robbie Lammas said:
“Women and girls deserve to grow up free from notions of ‘breaking their womanhood’ so they ‘bleed on their wedding night’. These traumatic practices have no basis in medical science, harm women and girls and perpetuate dangerous myths of ‘purity’.
“We must act now to stop both ‘virginity testing’ and hymen ‘repair’ surgery. That’s why I am delighted that Medway Council have joined Medway MP Tracey Crouch in calling on the Government to end this violence against women and girls for good”.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said:
“We are very concerned that women are either being coerced into having these procedures or feel pressurised into having them so they can bleed during sex and can demonstrate they are a virgin on their wedding night.
“The RCOG and the RCM want to see both virginity testing and hymenoplasty banned in the UK. This will send a clear message that there is no place in the medical world for these procedures and that women deserve the right to have ownership over their own sexual and reproductive health.”
Diana Nammi, Executive Director of IKWRO - Women's Rights Organisation said:
“At IKWRO - Women's Rights Organisation, we support women and girls, whose lives have been put at risk of so-called "honour" killing because of virginity testing and who have been severely traumatised and harmed by hymenoplasty. That's why we are working with Medway Council to ensure that these invasive and degrading harmful practices, which are an abuse of human rights, and have no medical or other justification, are banned without delay. We have learned from our experiences in tackling the harmful practices of female genital mutilation and forced marriage, how vital it is to have clear legislation as a deterrent.”
Natasha Rattu, Executive Director of Karma Nirvana said:
“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 working in partnership with Medway Council to bring forward new legislation to end virginity testing and hymenoplasty to help break the ‘virginity myth’.”
Richard Holden MP, who tabled the New Clauses said:
“I am delighted to have received the support of Medway Council for New Clause 1 & 2. The Health and Social Care Bill is the best opportunity to ban these oppressive practices once and for all. It is great to see cross-party work, alongside charities and health professionals to tackle violence against women and girls.
New Clause 1 seeks to criminalise virginity testing, which are examinations that falsely claim to be able to determine whether a women or a girl has had vaginal intercourse by examining the female genitalia. The examination has no scientific merit or clinical indication as the appearance of a hymen is not a reliable indication of intercourse.
New Clause 2 seeks to criminalise hymenoplasty (also known as hymen repair surgery) which are procedures undertaken which purport to reconstruct a hymen, a thin piece of membrane that partially covers the vagina. This procedure requires a surgeon to create scar tissue in the vagina, with the purpose of making a woman bleed the next time she has intercourse, in order to give the impression that she has no history of vaginal intercourse.
Please take a look at Cllr Lammas' video on the topic which is on our Facebook & Twitter pages. Please follow the links below for your preferred platform.