• Monday, September 26, 2022

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Pakistan provincial court bans virginity tests on rape victims

Human rights activists carry placards as they take part in a protest against an alleged gang rape of a woman, in Islamabad on September 12, 2020. – Hundreds of women took to streets across Pakistan on September 12 protesting gruesome gang rape of a woman in front of her two children after her car ran out of fuel near the eastern city of Lahore late on September 9. (Photo by Farooq NAEEM / AFP) (Photo by FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Sarwar Alam

A court in Pakistan’s most populous province on Monday outlawed virginity tests on rape victims — a longstanding practice in the country used to assess a woman’s so-called honour.

Critics of the tests, including an invasive “two-finger test”, had filed petitions in the eastern city of Lahore in a bid to have them outlawed.

The World Health Organization has previously said that there is no scientific merit to the examinations and considers them a human rights violation.

Declaring them illegal, Lahore High Court said a virginity test “offends the personal dignity of the female victim and therefore is against the right to life and right to dignity”.

Proponents of virginity tests claim they can assess a woman’s sexual history, with the results often used to discredit rape victims.

Much of Pakistani society operates under an oppressive system of honour, in which rape victims face social stigma and assaults are vastly underreported.

The ruling was a “much needed step in the right direction of improving the investigative and judicial processes and making them fairer for victims of sexual assault and rape,” a statement released by the lawyers behind the petition said.

Pakistan’s president had already moved to ban the two-finger virginity test — an invasive examination which involves a medical examiner inserting two fingers into a woman’s vagina — in December as part of a new anti-rape law.

But it allowed for visual inspections of the hymen to assess tearing and scars to continue.

The Lahore High Court ruling banning all forms of virginity testing will apply to Punjab province and is the first of its kind in Pakistan

A similar case is being heard in the Sindh High Court and women’s rights activists hope the Lahore court ruling will set a precedent for a nationwide ban.

Neighbouring India banned the two-finger test in 2013 and Bangladesh followed suit in 2018.

Eastern Eye

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