UN calls for ban on unscientific virginity tests in Pakistan

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Pakistani government to put an end to the so-called “two-finger test” for being an “abusive practice.”

A petition filed by lawyers, academics, civil society activists and a member of the parliament in the Lahore high Court (LHC) argues that women are usually subjected to the “two-finger test” which is invasive, disrespectful and a gross violation of a woman’s right to dignity and privacy.

The ‘virginity test’, states the petition, is practiced to reach a conclusion about a woman’s character, morality and past sexual activity. Also, it judges “whether or not they [the women] are likely to have consented to an unwarranted sexual encounter.”

According to the World Health Organization the so-called “two-finger test” has no medical or scientific basis to be included in an inquiry of sexual assault.

Last week, the Ministry of Law and Justice recommended to the court that such examinations should not be part of any criminal investigation, as they are violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

“’Virginity examinations’ have long been a routine part of criminal proceedings in Pakistan,” read a statement by the HRW, “They are based on the unscientific and misogynist assumption that a woman ‘habituated to sexual intercourse’ is less likely to have been raped. Police and prosecutors in Pakistan have used these tests to accuse rape victims of illegal sexual intercourse and treat them as criminals.”

But in its reply to the Court recently, the Punjab government said it would omit the use of the “two-finger test” during examination of female assault victims “unless it is necessitated explicitly for detection of injuries or provision of medical treatment.”

The HRW states that banning “virginity tests” should be part of broader reform to end abuses against women by the criminal justice system.

“The first step toward overcoming deeply entrenched gender inequality in state institutions like the police and judiciary is to end this cruel practice now,” its statement reads. 

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