Yazidi girls who escaped from the brutal sex slavery of the Islamic State have been forced to undergo virginity testing by Kurdish officials, the International Business Times reported.
According to Iraqi courts, virginity tests are admissible as evidence in rape cases.
“Kurdistan officials took their needs seriously, but subjected some unmarried women and girls to 'virginity tests' – an abusive and inaccurate procedure – as part of a forensic, post-rape examination,” Human Rights Watch researcher Rothna Begum said. “Judge Ayman Bamerny, who heads a committee gathering evidence of ISIS crimes, told us these tests were seen as evidence of rape by Iraqi courts.”
The World Health Organization regards virginity testing as having “no scientific validity.”
Yet the testing persists because of the “commonly held but inaccurate belief that all women and girls who are virgins have intact hymens that bleed on first intercourse,” Begum said.
Virginity testing is common in societies which highly prize female chastity as a symbol of honor. There have been previous cases of Yazidi sex slaves being ostracized by their families on their return due to the damage done to the family reputation by their having been raped.
Some freed girls undergo hymen reconstruction surgery in an attempt to regain lost ‘purity.’
The virginity testing, the surgery and the shame poured on women and girls who are not virgins, even following rape, are all facets of a culture of honor and shame that seeks to control female bodies and female sexuality.