Now The Hard Work Starts
The practises have moved underground where anyone calling themselves a clinician or an expert, and wearing a white coat for extra authenticity, can intimately examine a girl or woman’s genitalia and make an announcement about whether they think she is a virgin or not.
Never mind that real doctors and nurses cannot tell because there is no scientific method that can truly reveal a girl’s virginity status, these practises have become even more dangerous. And, no, it's not because of a lack of hygiene regulations in these days of Covid pandemics.
These procedures have become more dangerous because there is much more scope for sexual abuse. In fact, MEWSo has always considered these practises themselves to be a form of sexual abuse, which is why we fought so long and hard for a ban in the first place.
However, as well as the UK-wide ban, MEWSo has always called for a mass programme of education and professional training so that potential victims and those most able to help them both know about the ban, how to spot girls being coerced into having these procedures, and able to give immediate help to those women and girls who resist.
Some funds for education and training has been forthcoming from Government but nowhere nearly enough. Essentially, the task of educating and training has been left to a handful of already overstretched charities and are taken up by a pitiably low number of statutory agencies who don’t see such training as a priority and don’t have the funds even if they did.
Many agencies, including the police, don’t see the direct link between virginity tests and the honour-based abuses and honour-based killings of women and girls.
As a result, MEWSo has submitted to Parliament, it’s argument that what is needed now, most urgently, is a National Reporting System that guarantees confidentiality and a fast response that will protect potential victims who, if they “fail” a virginity test, face death threats, violence, and assassination attempts from inside and also outside the UK.
Why it is not enough to simply call the police? Because, so far, only three out of 43 police services in England and Wales are adequately prepared to respond to the needs of these victims and take their cases through to prosecution.
This is not good enough. The ban is in place. Now the Government needs to take seriously the hard work needed to make sure this ban is strictly enforced and that potential victims are properly protected.
Halaleh Taheri, MEWSo Founder & Executive Director