Virginity testing and hymenoplasties are now illegal in England and Wales following the introduction of the Health and Care Act 2022. Anyone found to be carrying out, offering, aiding or abetting either procedure faces up to five years’ imprisonment.
What is virginity testing?
Virginity tests are performed to check whether or not a female has had sexual intercourse. However, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) states that such tests have no scientific merit, and cannot actually prove whether a woman has had vaginal intercourse or not. Even so, such practices still happen in England and Wales, often for cultural or religious reasons.
What is a hymenoplasty?
A hymenoplasty is a surgical procedure designed to reconstruct the hymen, with the intention that a woman will bleed the next time she has vaginal intercourse. A hymenoplasty is not the same as procedures performed on the hymen for clinical reasons, such as removing part of a hymen that causes discomfort or obstructs menstrual flow.
The Health and Care Act 2022
Virginity testing and hymenoplasties are now illegal in England and Wales under the Health and Care Act 2022. This means it is an offence to carry out, offer, or aid and abet either procedure. The offence is punishable by up to five years in prison.
It is not known how common these practices are, as the majority take place in private healthcare settings. Private providers do not have to record or share their data, nor do they necessarily advertise things like virginity testing and hymenoplasty as a service.
Even so, the government chose to ban virginity testing and hymenoplasties, describing them as forms of violence against women and girls. Not only can they lead to psychological harm, they also carry physical risks, including infection, internal damage and bleeding.
Virginity testing and hymenoplasty are considered on par with assault occasioning actual bodily harm in England and Wales.
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