Women and girls across Afghanistan accused of so-called “moral crimes” can face years in prison for acts like falling in love or refusing a forced marriage. Once behind bars, they're subjected to another indignity: invasive and unreliable "virginity tests." These "virginity tests," including the invasive “two finger test,” which ostensible check whether a woman's hymen is intact, have no basis in science. And they have been denounced by the World Health Organization as medically invalid. The practice came under fire again this week after Human Rights Watch called attention to a report released by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). An investigation by the commission found that 48 out of 53 women and girls accused of sex outside marriage had been sent for “virginity exams,” sometimes up to three or four times. Some were as young as 13. The organization states that there is “no place” for a virginity test in women’s health care and warns health providers against the practice.
Human Rights Watch blasted the tests as "part of a broader pattern of abuses of women and girls" in the country, and called on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to abolish the "degrading and unscientific" practice. "Recognizing everyone’s inherent dignity, respecting human rights, and appreciating real science over pseudo-science all demand he do so," the group said. “[It] is considered a clear violation of human rights and an indication of sexual harassment and even torture," the AIHRC writes. "Such a practice is contrary to the provisions of international human rights documents,” the report reads, adding that the coercively rendered tests also violate the Constitution of Afghanistan.
The possible effects of virginity tests on a young woman can be dire — the report lists trauma, depression, panic, loss of confidence, and the possibility of being shunned by her community, among many others. It adds that virginity tests are considered sexual violence by the WHO, as well as U.N. reports on torture and violence against women.