Target: Dr. Charles Bernard, CEO of College Des Medecins
Goal: Commend the Quebec College of Physicians for taking a stance against invasive and inaccurate ”virginity tests”
It sounds like a scene from a medieval drama: a young woman’s family subjects her to an invasive medical procedure to determine her “purity.” But until recently, young women in Quebec could find themselves facing this kind of sexist, disturbing examination. Commend the College Des Medecins, Quebec’s College of Physicians, for finally and officially outlawing the practice, and urge the College to continue fighting for women’s health justice.
The edict from College Des Medecins came down after it received reports of several families seeking to have their daughters tested. Although Council for the Status of Women was quick to point out to CTV that the requests constituted isolated cases and “not a trend,” the outright ban on virginity testing sets an important precedent about a woman’s health and who should have the ability to control and access information about it (namely: the woman in question).
Testing for virginity is a highly intrusive medical procedure that Amnesty International deems “sexual violence…akin to rape,” a Salon article reports. In a virginity test, a doctor probes a woman internally to determine if her hymen is intact. If so, she is literally certified to be a virgin–the family receives a document affirming this fact.
Aside from the traumatic and outrageous invasion of privacy involved in the execution of these archaic tests, they are not even necessarily accurate. As Planned Parenthood points out, the hymen can be stretched open by any number of factors aside from sex, including masturbating, using tampons, doing gymnastics, or even riding a bicycle. In fact, “some girls are born with so little hymenal tissue that it appears they have none,” the organization reports.
From now on, doctors who are caught administering virginity tests in Quebec will face possible disciplinary action. Dr. Charles Bernard, CEO of College Des Medecins, advised doctors to look into the factors that provoked a request for the test in the first place, telling CTV Montreal that if a doctor “find[s] there is something going wrong, [he or she] can recommend a patient to maybe visit a social worker, a psychologist,” and adding that concerns may also be taken to the province’s child welfare system.
It is sad that in the year 2013, “virginity tests” still happen, but it is encouraging that Quebec’s medical college has taken a definitive stance against the practice. Sign the petition and thank College Des Medecins for backing one of women’s most basic human rights.
Dear Dr. Bernard,
I am writing to thank College Des Medecins for its recent decision to prohibit invasive, archaic, and demeaning “virginity tests.” It is disheartening that, in the year 2013, such tests are still performed, but the College’s strong stance against them is an encouraging step forward in the battle for equality in women’s health.
Virginity tests are insulting and misogynistic; they essentially tell a woman that her word is not trustworthy and her body is not her own. They often disregard a woman’s own wishes in the interest of catering to her family or her (potential) partner. They tell a woman that her value as a human being is intrinsically tied into whether or not she has had sex.
Furthermore, virginity tests are not accurate indicators of sexual activity. Setting aside the fact that rape can result in a broken hymen just as surely as consensual sex can, a woman’s hymen can be stretched open by a number of factors, ranging from masturbation to tampons to activities like gymnastics or horseback riding. And in some girls, hymenal tissue is so thin that it appears not to exist at all. None of these factors inspire much confidence in the veracity of a virginity test’s results.
Putting an official end to this traumatic and sexist practice is a step forward for women’s health. I thank you for your decision, and I encourage you to continue to support women’s health.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Photo Du.de via Wikimedia Commons