Have you heard of the ‘two-fingers’ or virginity test?
“It is used to humiliate women in courts. I also went through it, and I cannot describe the humiliation … It feels like a second trauma. From the police station to hospital, everyone stares at you”
Mukhtaran Mai – Rape Survivor, Pakistan 2002
It is a daunting task to walk into a police station in Pakistan. As a woman, you have multiple pairs of eyes upon you, wondering, conjecturing … why? Why was this woman so majboor, so desperate, that she had to resort to coming here and reporting a crime?
And now, picture this: A woman walking in to report a rape case, being met with quizzical, curious and at times (loathsome) glances, then imagine her humiliation at being subjected to two fingers inserted inside her vagina by a complete stranger in order to discern her character – virtuous or loose? The verdict is passed even before the first hearing is conducted in court!
Finally, we have a verdict, but only in one province so far. The two-finger or virginity test for rape victims has been outlawed in Pakistan.
The ruling in Punjab province will end the practice of physical checks for an intact hymen and the invasive “two-finger or virginity test”. As stated by the ruling High Court Judge:
The tests were “humiliating” and “had no forensic value”.Lahore high Court Judge – Ayesha Malik
In a country like Pakistan where rape cases are not all reported due to fear of social backlash and the victim and family fearing for their lives, this test violates a woman to the core. She suffers mental and emotional trauma which is in addition to the rape incident itself.
It is sad that women still have to fight in court to attain what is their legal right to privacy. It has been asserted over and over again by campaigners that virginity tests as part of the medical evaluation in rape cases have no scientific basis.
Although the ruling applies only in the Punjab province, it is expected to set a precedent for petitions in other provincial high courts.
What is a two-finger test?
The “two-finger test” is performed manually by inserting one or two fingers into a woman’s vagina to test for its laxity and for the presence of a hymen – in theory to determine whether or not the woman is sexually active and to what extent.
Guilty Before Proven Innocent
It is claimed by medical professionals that the test might determine if a woman has been sexually active previous to the rape, and also indicates if this were her first time – Obviously, a practice that might lead to discrediting the victim at the onset.
Insult After Assault With An Everlasting Life Trauma
The World Health Organisation has categorically debunked the test, saying it has no scientific merit and is a human rights violation. WHO’s stance on the issue appears below:
Virginity testing, also called “two-finger testing”, is unscientific, harmful, and a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights.
It is not possible to tell a “virgin” hymen from a “non-virgin” hymen.
Virginity testing can lead to harmful mental – as well as physical – health consequences.World Health Organization
And what of our police stations that are dens of intimidation for a lone woman to walk into? How do we sort that one out? Well the law shouldn’t be above the law right? We need to train our executioners of law to behave in a conciliatory, respectful manner to all human beings, be they rape victims or not.
Perhaps we wish to fix everything at one go. Only because these practices should have been halted eons ago and we have failed to uphold a woman’s ‘honour’.
Look after your women, they are the mother of your children, your wives, your sisters, your daughters – and most importantly, they are as human as you and I.
The two finger tests so far have been abolished in India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Information on the above article has been sources from Al Jazeera, BBC News, WHO and DW News
Shazia likes to pen her thoughts when she feels passionately about a life experience, a person or an event. She is mother to 3 lively boys and along with her husband, attempts to settle in her new country by taking German lessons so she is able to soak in the culture, language and spirit of the region.
“Wake up in the morning, take a deep breath and exhale! Keep on living with a passion that inspires others! “