Statement on virginity testing

J Forensic Leg Med. 2015 Jul;33:121-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2015.02.012. Epub 2015 Mar 13.


Virginity testing (virginity examination) is a gynecological examination that is intended to correlate the status and appearance of the hymen with previous sexual contact to determine whether a female has had or is habituated to sexual intercourse. Virginity examinations are practiced in many countries, often forcibly, including in detention places; on women who allege rape or are accused of prostitution; and as part of public or social policies to control sexuality. The Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG) - thirty-five preeminent independent forensic experts from eighteen countries specialized in evaluating and documenting the physical and psychological effects of torture and ill-treatment - released a statement on the practice in December 2014. In its statement, the IFEG outlines the physical and psychological effects of forcibly conducting virginity examinations on females based on its collective experience. The Group assesses whether, based on the effects, forcibly conducted virginity examinations constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or torture. Finally, the IFEG addresses the medical interpretation, relevance, and ethical implications of such examinations. The IFEG concludes that virginity examinations are medically unreliable and have no clinical or scientific value. These examinations are inherently discriminatory and, in almost all instances, when conducted forcibly, result in significant physical and mental pain and suffering, thereby constituting cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or torture. When virginity examinations are forcibly conducted and involve vaginal penetration, the examination should be considered as sexual assault and rape. Involvement of health professionals in these examinations violates the basic standards and ethics of the professions.

Keywords: Female; Gynecological examination; Hymen; Sex offenses; Torture; Virginity testing.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Forensic Sciences / standards*
  • Gynecological Examination / adverse effects*
  • Gynecological Examination / ethics*
  • Gynecological Examination / methods
  • Gynecological Examination / psychology
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • Hymen / anatomy & histology*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Rape
  • Societies, Scientific
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Torture