'Goes above'

New policy will end invasive ‘virginity testing’ in Afghan hospitals, advocates say

An internally displaced Afghan girl who fled from recent conflict, sits outside the shelter at a desert in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. November 28, 2017. (REUTERS/Parwiz)

Even though Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani vowed last year the forensic virginity testing would officially be banned, the practice is still widespread throughout the country. But human rights advocates are celebrating a new policy as a potential breakthrough toward ending virginity testing once and for all.

A new public health policy was implemented effectively prohibiting health clinics and hospitals from performing virginity tests on girls. The tests, which have been widely condemned, are invasive and meant to determine whether a girl’s hymen is still intact. The official policy, however, is only half of the battle. The other half involves communicating that the ban is in effect and changing cultural attitudes in a nation where, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, some 95 percent of girls in juvenile prisons are there for so-called “moral crimes” such as sex before marriage.

Farhad Javid, country director for Marie Stopes International in Afghanistan, the group that has been working to end virginity testing there told The Guardian, “We hope this means that, when the police or a family bring in a woman or girl and demand that they perform a virginity test, it will no longer be a procedure that is conducted by health professionals — and that, in this way, it will help shift cultural attitudes among law enforcement and in wider society as well.”

Javid said many of the girls locked up for failing virginity tests are in their teens and they are packed into cells. The conditions are horrid and many end up staying far longer than they are intended to, because they are disowned by their families, she said. The next major hurdle is to get all of the girls who are in jail for failing virginity tests freed and have the offense wiped from their records.

“It’s been a very long struggle, but we see this as a major breakthrough because public health policy in Afghanistan is strong and respected both in government and Taliban areas, it goes above sharia law and we have expectations that it will be respected and implemented across all provinces,” Javid said.

Read the full story at The Guardian

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