For A Good 'Clause'
Our meeting at Parliament to explain to MPs why virginity tests and hymen repair surgeries should be banned went better than expected.
Over 35 MPs signed up to Clause 1 and 2 of the Health and Social Care Bill - amendments, which if passed, will make these practices illegal. And, several more MPs came to the Commons Lobby to find out about the issues and listen to our arguments.
The meeting was a joint affair between MEWSo, IKWRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation) and Karma Nirvana. Other organisations that came included the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Having the backing of these medical professionals, who have to deal with any health issues that occur from these practices, was really fantastic in helping us put our arguments across.
Representatives from MEWSo, IKWRO, Karma Nirvana, the RCM and RCOG at Parliament.
We’re very optimistic that we can get a ban on virginity tests. This despite several MPs from all main parties being reluctant to tackle, what is essentially, an ingrained cultural custom among Muslim and other conservative communities.
Centre: Halaleh Taheri, MEWSo Founder & Executive Director beside campaign supporter Richard Holden MP
What's The Problem?
Unfortunately, when it comes to hymen repair surgeries, the fight is still very much on. We still don’t know exactly why there is resistance to the hymen repair Clause, however, we are told an “expert panel” will need to be set up to review it.
But who could be more expert than the organisations and the medical experts at the Parliamentary meeting? MEWSo has been supporting Middle Eastern women on issues like this for many years now. Could the amount of money that would be lost if hymen repair surgery is banned be a factor? We don’t know for certain. But what we do know is that the practice has nothing to do with a woman’s health and everything to do with culture, tradition and a woman’s place in Muslim society.
Too many MPs think first about their Muslim voters and are too frightened to get involved in cultural traditions, even when these traditions are detrimental to women’s mental and physical wellbeing and rob women of their human rights - rights they would happily defend when curtailed abroad.
Without a ban on hymen repair, a ban on virginity tests is simply worthless!
In order to carry out a hymen repair, it would be necessary to first check if the surgery is needed. This check is a virginity test!
Women would be forced to pay for the higher cost of surgery, only to have it cancelled when it is discovered her hymen is still intact. Would they get their money back? Or would it be forfeited and clinics make even more profit?
Not An Option
Banning one practice without the other, keeps out-dated and harmful cultural customs alive and does not challenge how women are viewed and treated within these traditionalist communities. It's simply not an option.
To ban both at the same time would plug this loophole and give a clear signal from Government to all communities living in Britain that we will not tolerate a two-tier system of rights. That we respect all women and girls and they must be the only person in control of their body.
It shouldn't be necessary but, even in the 21st century, it has to be stated:
No woman should be defined by her virginity;
Every woman in Britain must have her mental and physical wellbeing protected whatever her cultural background;
And, no women should have her human rights curtailed to fulfil barbaric, medieval customs that should have died out long ago.