Several doctors and academics have criticised a French government proposal to ban virginity tests used by France’s Muslim community.
The ten academics and medical professionals signed a letter addressed to the French government and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, claiming that they thought the tests were “barbaric, retrograde, and totally sexist” — but arguing that banning virginity tests and punishing doctors was the wrong move.
The letter, which was published by left-wing newspaper Liberation, claimed that “this practice is extremely rare and affects a very small number of patients,” and that “In an ideal world, of course, you should refuse to sign such certificates.”
“To refuse these certificates is to defend women’s freedom and their fundamental right to dispose of their bodies. It’s respecting their privacy,” the letter suggested grandly — but immediately went on to complain that giving penalties to doctors who issue the certificates would not help secularism or stop the problem.
“To penalise us is to attack the consequence by neglecting the cause, which is rooted in ignorance and fear. Only education will enable the emancipation of these young women,” the authors of the letter proclaimed, arguably self-servingly.
The comments come after Emmanuel Macron’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, spoke out against virginity certificates earlier this month.
“Some doctors still dare to certify a woman’s virginity in order to allow a religious marriage, despite this practice being condemned by the Council of the Order of Physicians. It should not only be formally banned, but we must propose to penalise it,” he declared.
Virginity tests have long been criticised by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has actively — if ineffectively — campaigned to have them scrapped, releasing a report in 2018 that stated there was no medical value to the tests whatsoever.
Along with so-called virginity tests, France has also seen a rise in female genital mutilation (FGM) cases across the country in recent years. A report from the French National Public Health Agency released last year claiming that in just ten years cases had more than doubled.