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If you conduct a 'virginity test' in France, you could now face jail time

To protect its "secular values," France is working on legislation that will hand a year in jail time or a $17,500 fine to doctors who issue "virginity certificates."

If you conduct a 'virginity test' in France, you could now face jail time
Image Source: Getty Images/ Yulia Naumenko (representative)

"Virginity tests" have reportedly become prevalent in France, where doctors have for years provided so-called "virginity certificates" for traditional religious marriages. Now, under a new draft legislation, the practice could warrant jail time as well as hefty fines, BBC News reports. A medical professional who issues one of these certificates would be liable to pay a €15,000 fine (which is about $17,500) and spend up to a year in prison. The legislation is intended to protect the country's secular values and combat "Islamist separatism," as President Emmanuel Macron explained. The French abortion advice group ANCIC, however, said stopping "virginity tests" will require broader educational work.




According to a report by France 3 TV news, almost a third of all medical professionals in France have been asked for a virginity certificate. They have, nonetheless, refused to provide them. The practice of virginity tests is thought to be rampant in the European country, but gynecologist Dr. Ghada Hatem does not agree. She said in an interview with France Inter news, "In France, this doesn't affect thousands of women. I am asked by about three women maximum [for certificates] each year." The doctor provides these certificates when she believes the woman requesting the certificate may be in danger. "If they say, 'My brother will beat me up, my dad will strangle me, my in-laws will ruin my family's reputation,' I have no reason to disbelieve them," the doctor affirmed.




In light of this sad fact, Marlène Schiappa, French Minister Delegate in charge of Citizenship, urged legislators to similarly punish those who demand virginity tests, most prominently parents and other family members or fiancés. ANCIC also hopes to see a more holistic approach towards eradicating the practice. "A ban would simply deny the existence of such community practices, without making them disappear," they warned. "We think this question must be tackled quite differently, so that women and men free themselves and reject the weight of these traditions. There needs to be educational provision, to inform, discuss, prevent, and give support."




The United Nations has called on countries across the world, but particularly those in regions where the practice is prevalent such as North Africa and the Middle East, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and South Africa, to ban virginity tests. In an October 2018 statement, the organization urged countries to hold awareness campaigns that would "challenge myths related to virginity and harmful gender norms that place emphasis on control of women's and girls' sexuality and bodies." Many women can face rejection by their families (while some have even been killed) for having had sex before marriage—or being unable to prove that they have not. The new draft legislation hopes to change this mindset.



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