Virginity tests are a highly controversial practice in many countries where health care professionals are asked to examine a woman’s hymen to decide if she has engaged in sexual intercourse yet. According to Quebec College of Physicians, this is a violation of not only a woman’s right to privacy, but also doctor-patient confidentiality.
In some cases, this test is carried out for the sake of family honor or to make sure a man’s bride is pure — and doctors are willing to oblige. On the other hand, some doctors have admitted to faking proof of results without ever performing a virginity test “in the interest of harm reduction to save a girl’s honour,” Marie-Ève Bouthillier, with the Université de Montréal, told The Montreal Gazette.
“It reduces virginity to a piece of skin,” Bouthillier added.
Activist groups and members of the medical community started to crackdown on virginity tests in 2009 when four women of Afghan descent were murdered in Quebec. Family members of the four victims carried out “honor killings” after finding out that the women were not virgins.
The Quebec College of Physicians’ plea for doctors to stop virginity tests comes after Bouthillier and her colleague responded to five families in Quebec who were trying to request a virginity test. One of the cases involved a woman in her 20s who asked a nurse to check her hymen during a routine physical exam so she could know if “she was still marriageable." A second incident involved an adolescent girl who notified her school nurse after her parents had forced a virginity test on her.
“Imagine a doctor who does a gynecological examination with the sole purpose of ... it goes beyond the imagination. And it’s degrading to women,” Charles Bernard, president of the Collège des médecins du Québec, told The Montreal Gazette.