A group of United Nations agencies has issued a joint statement calling for a ban on female virginity tests.

The statement, which was issued during the World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO 2018) ongoing in Rio de Janeiro, stressed that such tests are both unscientific, and a violation of human rights.

According to a statement by the UN, so-called “virginity testing” – also often referred to as hymen, “two-finger” or per vaginal examination – is a gynecological inspection of female genitalia carried out in the false belief that it can reliably determine whether a woman or girl has had vaginal intercourse.

The agencies -- the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), UN Women and the World Health Organization (WHO) -- noted that “this medically unnecessary, and often times painful, humiliating and traumatic practice must end”.

The UN agencies explained that the practice has “no scientific or clinical basis” and that “there is no examination that can prove a girl or woman has had sex”, as the “appearance of girl’s or woman’s hymen cannot prove whether they have had sexual intercourse or are sexually active or not”.

They also denounced virginity testing as a violation of the rights of girls and women, which can be detrimental to their physical, psychological and social well-being. The examination can be “painful, humiliating and traumatic” and reinforces stereotyped notions of female sexuality and gender inequality. 

The statement read: “The result of this unscientific test can impact upon judicial proceedings, often to the detriment of victims and in favour of perpetrators, sometimes resulting in perpetrators being acquitted.

“Given that these procedures are unnecessary and potentially harmful, it is unethical for doctors or other health providers to undertake them. Such procedures must never be carried out."

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