The Controversy Round Virginity Testing

NPR’s Michel Martin talks with Sophia Jones, senior editor for The Fuller Mission, in regards to the controversy surrounding virginity testing.


We will flip now to a narrative that made all types of waves on social media final week. And right here is the place I really feel I ought to say we will get right into a degree of element about anatomy that some might discover uncomfortable.

The story is that this. The rapper and producer T.I. stated in an interview with the host of the “Women Like Us” podcast that he has been taking his now 18-year-old daughter to her annual go to along with her gynecologist yearly to verify that she’s not sexually energetic. How would he affirm this? By insisting that the physician decide whether or not her hymen is unbroken. It is a observe referred to as virginity testing, and it is a observe that has been broadly condemned by medical professionals all over the world, together with the World Well being Group, as unscientific, medically meaningless and even abusive.

We wished to be taught extra about this, together with how widespread this observe stays, so we have referred to as Sophia Jones. She’s a senior editor and journalist with the Fuller Mission. That is a nonprofit journalist group reporting on world points affecting girls. She’s written broadly about this. And she or he’s with us now from Istanbul, Turkey.

Sophia Jones, thanks a lot for speaking with us.

SOPHIA JONES: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So, to begin with, how widespread is that this observe?

JONES: In order that’s a superb query, and most of the people do not actually know. So I began reporting on this a couple of yr in the past, after I was planning a visit to Afghanistan, the place – virginity testing is widespread there. And I began asking researchers and physicians in the USA if that they had ever heard of this occurring within the U.S. And so I began asking that query – how frequent is that this? Have you ever heard of this?

And it took a couple of months for folks to essentially begin to get again to me and to speak about this. They stated that they had been routinely requested to carry out hymen exams to find out virginity, which isn’t scientific, and that that they had often really carried out the exams themselves or that they had heard of colleagues performing them.

MARTIN: And, simply to make clear for individuals who might not know, what precisely is the hymen? What perform does it serve? Does it serve any organic perform that we all know?

JONES: The hymen is a skinny piece of mucous membrane that may be discovered close to the doorway of the vagina. It has no confirmed goal in any way. Docs and consultants actually do not know why the hymen exists. Some child women are born and not using a hymen. Many are born with a hymen. But it surely is available in many alternative styles and sizes.

MARTIN: What in your reporting have you ever indicated has been the consequence of those sorts of exams on girls? I imply, one of many issues that you just wrote about is that there are a selection of ladies who’ve been subjected to those exams who’ve discovered it extraordinarily traumatic for years afterwards. Might you simply speak slightly bit about what your reporting indicated round this?

JONES: It was actually troublesome to get girls to open up and speak about this challenge as a result of it is extremely personal. And of the ladies that I did interview, there was a handful that had undergone this process as youngsters, of their teen years round puberty. And all of them stated that they discovered it extremely traumatizing. And a few stated that they thought of it to be sexual assault or rape.

MARTIN: One of many issues that intrigued me is the truth that a physician would take part on this whenever you’ve instructed us that there isn’t a medical goal to it. I imply, there isn’t a medical goal to it. So why would a physician carry out this take a look at on a wholesome particular person?

JONES: That is a extremely good query, and that is a query I’ve requested a number of dozen physicians and nurses and sexual assault nurses. And so they say – they’ve a wide range of totally different solutions. Some simply do not wish to speak about the truth that they’re performing these exams as a result of it is perhaps as a consequence of ignorance. Even in medical college, the hymen shouldn’t be broadly studied, and even amongst medical doctors that I interviewed within the States, there was form of a lack of know-how across the hymen and the function that it performs or doesn’t play within the feminine anatomy.

MARTIN: So earlier than we allow you to go, I famous that this story about T.I., who’s, , a really well-known determine – and I do know lots of people reacted with sort of horror and disgust when he was discussing this challenge on this method – , so freely on a public discussion board. And I simply questioned, how did you react to this as an individual who’s reported on this?

JONES: So I wasn’t completely stunned. I used to be simply stunned that a couple of week after I revealed this year-long investigation about virginity testing, and it was so troublesome to seek out girls and medical professionals to return ahead and speak about this challenge, that this story popped up in my information feed that T.I. was bringing his daughter to get her hymen checked. And it form of blew up the story in a a lot larger method and gave it a platform the place folks had been really discussing this challenge – the place earlier than, earlier than this investigation, I had not ever learn a narrative about virginity testing within the U.S.

MARTIN: That was Sophia Jones, senior editor and journalist with the Fuller Mission. It is a venture that studies on points affecting girls and women all over the world.

Sophia Jones, thanks a lot for speaking to us immediately.

JONES: Thanks.

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