Afghanistan has enacted a new public health policy intended to stop virginity testing in the country, marking a hard-earned victory for human rights campaigners. The invasive procedure to check whether the hymen is intact remains widespread in Afghanistan, despite having been condemned by the World Health Organization, countless human rights groups, and even the Afghan government. Girls and young women who fail the virginity tests can beimprisoned for several months–sometimes, more than a year–and face shame and exclusion even after they are released.
Yet after years of advocacy and activism, Marie Stopes Afghanistan and other societal leaders believe that this official public health policy, which will stop the practice from being performed in all clinics and hospitals throughout Afghanistan, presents a major breakthrough. The organization will work to ensure that the new policy is understood and implemented.
Farhad Javid, country director for Marie Stopes International in Afghanistan, believes that both government and Taliban regions will respect this new change in public health policy. “It’s been a very long struggle, but we see this as a major breakthrough,” Javid explained, adding that the new policy will help shift broader cultural attitudes.
– Anna Katz, Communications Intern