For one Moroccan NGO, all virginity tests should be banned, regardless of the fact they are not mandatory before marriage.
Rabat – Following campaigns targeting violence against women, Moroccan NGO Alternative Movernment for Individual Freedoms (MALI) has launched a campaign to ban premarital virginity tests for women in Morocco.
Although virginity tests are not legally required before marriage, several Moroccan activists and feminists have condemned their widespread usage.
In December, MALI posted a statement to announce their campaign “my vulva is mine.”
The campaign aims to “condemn sexual and racial violence for what is known as the virginity test.”
Virginity tests, often imposed
The statement added that the test is “often imposed by the family or the man. It is important to remember that this examination is a violation of the basic rights of women and an attack on their dignity.”
MALI recalled a joint statement issued by the UN Human Rights Council, UN Women, and the World Health Organization (WHO) in October 2018. The organizations called on several countries, including Morocco, to ban virginity testing for women and girls, explaining that virginity tests have no scientific credibility.
“There are many women born without a hymen and there are others with a broad hymen that remains intact even after sexual intercourse,” MALI added.
MALI argued, “40 percent of women do not bleed during their sexual intercourse.”
However, bleeding is still considered an indicator of virginity, especially in rural areas.
Not a legal requirement, but widely used
Stephanie Willman Bordat, an international human rights lawyer, spoke with Morocco World News on the danger of the virginity test and how it “harms” the dignity of women.
Willman said, “In Morocco [virginity tests] are not a legal requirement but in practice they are used in both criminal and family matters.”
Willman referred to sexual assault cases. Prosecutors require virginity test results to prove rape committed against unmarried women.
Willman noted that prosecutors seek virginity tests for rape victims because convicted rapists are subject to tougher punishments if they raped virgins. Defense lawyers also seek virginity tests to acquit those accused of rape.
She added that some families prefer the bride to have a virginity test “before marriage so that the husband can’t abusively throw her out or repudiate her right after marriage claiming she was not a virgin.”
The UN NGOs and WHO said in their joint statement that in case of rape, virginity tests can cause further physical damage when doctors use their hands to check whether the hymen is still untouched.
Hymen, which partially covers the opening of the vagina, comes in different shapes, and some women are born without it entirely. Hymen usually remains intact before sexual intercourse. But it can also be stretched by non-sexual activities, including extreme physical activity, horse riding, and bicycling.
Some women with a stretched hymen, whether from sexual or other physical activity, pay for an operation to “repair” the hymen to protect family honor.
Virginity can’t be established scientifically
Willman said that virginity tests are “problematic from a purely forensic medical view.” Scientifically, you can’t really establish virginity or not.”
She added that the tests are discriminatory against women.
“They make women’s worth as either brides or rape victims depend on their virginity,” Willman said.
After the UN’s and WHO’s joint statement, Morocco’s Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi responded that the tests are not legally required before marriage.
He added that Morocco’s family code asks for a “medical certificate as a required document before marriage, but it has nothing to do with virginity test.”
In an informal poll on Morocco World News’s Facebook page, approximately 1,900 people voted on January 2 on whether virginity tests should be an option or should be banned.
Over 1,300 voted for the complete banning of virginity tests while fewer than 600 people voted that the test should be an option.
Willman said that “if Morocco is going to ban these tests – as they should – they need to take measures that address the reasons why people use these tests.”
She gave as an example using the test to determine punishments in rape cases, saying the government should “punish all rape harshly.”
She also said that Morocco “should not allow repudiation and annulment of marriage based on accusations of non virginity.” Willman also called for “sexual and biological education in schools so that people reflect and make decisions based on science, etc.”
MALI also called on doctors to refuse to perform virginity tests. The movement also called to “combat gender stereotypes about the sexuality of women in marriage.”