In an unprecedented ruling, a Pakistani court has outlawed virginity tests for rape survivors. On Monday, the Lahore High Court ruled that the test has no legal basis and that it “offends the personal dignity of the female victim.”
This ruling came to motion after human rights activists filed two petitions in Punjab. Stating that the test had no forensic value, the campaigners have long demanded an end to the virginity tests.
Justice Ayesha Malik, while making the judgment, said that the virginity test is highly invasive. It is carried out in the name of medical protocols in sexual violence cases without “having no scientific or medical requirement.” According to Malik, this practice is used to cast suspicion on the victim as opposed to “focusing on the accused and the incident of sexual violence.”
The United Nations in a report in 2018 had said that virginity tests, a medically dubious internal examination of a women’s hymen, still takes place in 20 countries around the world.
Additionally, the tests are conducted with or without consent in rape cases or when a woman is accused of “moral crime” as running away or premarital sex. Premarital sex remains a crime in Pakistan for both men and women and carries a five-year prison sentence.
Shireen Mazari, Pakistan’s Minister of Human Rights, lauded the judgement that will apply only in Punjab. She wrote on Twitter, “Justice Ayesha Malik’s decision today is a bold and clear judgement against the demeaning and absurd “two-finger test”. A landmark judgement indeed. It also strengthens the ban placed on this test in the anti-rape ordinance against the detractors.”
Even Chaudhury Fawad, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Science and Technology welcomed what he called a “landmark ruling.”