Government plans to ban virginity testing in breakthrough for #VirginityDoesNotDefineMe campaign

Friday 23 July 2021

Naomi Wiseman of Garden Court Chambers has been providing legal advice on the legislation to the Girls Not Brides campaign, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, Karma Nirvana, Forward UK, the Independent Yemen Group and MPs.

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The government has committed to criminalising virginity testing in a victory for campaign groups. Click here to find out more about the campaign which: 

  • Challenges the false and harmful notion that virginity is in any way a measure of a girl’s or woman’s worth.
  • Tackles dangerous myths around virginity.
  • Calls for a ban of the harmful practices of virginity testing and hymenoplasty, which; perpetuate patriarchal and misogynistic norms, cause trauma and can trigger so-called “honour” based abuse. 

Richard Holden MP, previously introduced a private member’s bill to outlaw virginity testing — an intrusive and unscientific procedure involving an examination to assess whether the hymen is intact. Now his proposals, backed by the Department of Health and Social Care, have been introduced as a clause in the Health and Care Bill. He said: 

"Virginity tests and hymen repair surgeries are being conducted by doctors to check or ‘restore’ the virginity of girls and women, often prior to marriage. These practices are not founded in science, are abusive and perpetuate dangerous myths.”

It is also the first time that the banning of hymenoplasty — also known as “hymen repair” or “virginity repair” — will be included in draft legislation, meaning that anyone carrying out such a procedure would be breaking the law.

Speaking on the floor of the House of Commons, Mr Holden MP said:

"My right hon. Friend will no doubt be aware of the campaigners Natasha Rattu and the team at Karma Nirvana, Sara Browne and the team at IKWRO Women’s Rights Organisation, and Natasha Feroze and the team at MEWSO, the Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation, who have been working with me and my team on a private Member’s Bill last year and amendments to the Health and Care Bill in this Session to end so-called virginity testing and hymenoplasty. I pay particular tribute to Naomi Wiseman and Dr Charlotte Proudman, who have been helping me on that."

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