Saira Khan: “Virginity testing should not be allowed to protect women against abuse and violence”

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It was announced this week that the Government is planning to ban both hymenoplasty – needless cosmetic surgery which attempts to reconstruct the hymen – and virginity testing

Sometimes I do lose faith in politics – but then something happens to restore it and I find myself grateful for all those who tirelessly fight to improve the lives of others.

Last July I wrote about the Government’s plan to criminalise virginity testing as part of a wider move to protect women from abuse and violence.

Karma Nirvana was the longest-established charity that assists victims and survivors from honour-based abuse.

It offers UK-wide support via the Government-backed Honour Based Abuse Helpline. The campaign also featured a national Virginity Myths campaign.

The helpline received more than 12,500 calls in 2020-21.

So I’m delighted to be able to congratulate Karma Nirvana and others who have lobbied for years to outlaw virginity testing and hymen reconstruction.

It was announced this week that the Government is planning to ban both hymenoplasty – needless cosmetic surgery which attempts to reconstruct the hymen – and virginity testing.

Gillian Keegan Minister for Care and Mental Health said that she was “committed to safeguarding vulnerable women and girls”.

These practices, which are common in certain cultures in Britain, will now become illegal and be recognized as honor-based abuse.

It will bring hope to young girls like Sommer (17 years old), who was taken to London to have her virginity tested.

She stated: “I’ve never had sex but the clinic said my hymen was not intact. So my parents booked for me to have it ‘repaired’. I managed to escape before this happened.”

Mia, 23, revealed the following: “I’m so scared because my parents want me to abort my boyfriend’s baby. They’ve planned for me to then have my hymen repaired so I can be ‘married off’ as a virgin.”

Another girl shared how her family put pressure on her for years after she was raped as an adolescent.

She stated: “It wasn’t something I felt I had a choice over. It was as if this was the only option, something you can do to fit back in.

“I felt very alone. I felt guilty if I didn’t do it. But I knew everything my parents were saying was only for their honour.”

She managed to escape the pressure only by marrying someone who didn’t care that her hymen wasn’t intact.

I find it deplorable that young women have had to go through this abuse – and that there were medical professionals willing to carry out the procedures.

In November 2020, Karma Nirvana worked with the BBC on an investigation that identified 21 clinics carrying out hymen repair surgery, at a cost of up to £3,000.

We cannot tolerate violence against women in our society.

I’m thankful to all those who fought for this change in the law. Although politics can sometimes seem like a joke, incredible things do happen.

It is our duty to ensure that the law is being followed behind closed doors.