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Virginity Testing in South Asia Condemned by Human Rights Watch

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In this Friday, March 16, 2012 file photo, an Egyptian activist chants slogans during a demonstration against an army doctor accused of public obscenity filed by a protester who claimed she was forced to undergo a virginity test, in front of Cairo’s high court, in Egypt. Women protesters and rights groups have accused Egyptian military and prison authorities of sexual assault and abuse on female detainees in the latest crackdown on demonstrations. Arabic on the poster, center, reads, “March 9, 2011, protesters torture " and the banner, left, reads, “we do not want the Egyptian woman to be a second-class citizen.”

In 2014, The World Health Organization condemned virginity tests, claiming it had “no scientific validity.” These examinations prevent women and girls from engaging in civil society like their male counterparts and prevents them from having full autonomy over their bodies. International human rights treaties, like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), prohibit discrimination and violent acts against women. Despite human rights treaties and organizations denouncing this act, virginity testing or the “’two-finger test,” is still an ongoing practice in South Asian countries. To discuss this controversial practice and why it is still a social norm we talk with Heather Barr, a senior researcher on women’s rights at Human Rights Watch.

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