The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in a report titled “Forced Gynecological Examination in Afghanistan” finds that 92.3 percent of "virginity tests" recorded were conducted with neither the woman's consent nor a court order, which are required by law.
The organization says 129 women were interviewed in 13 provinces for this research. The respondents underwent forced gynecological examinations after the law came into effect on Feb. 14, 2018 that made such forced “virginity” tests illegal, says the report.
Findings of the research show that despite Article 640 of the penal code being passed--restricting virginity tests to only those women who consent to be tested and with a court order--these tests continue to be performed to determine if there were acts of rape, adultery or sodomy.
The report indicates that 92.3% of virginity tests (119 out of 129 respondents) were conducted lacking either one or both legal requirements, which are an official court order and the woman’s consent.
According to the respondents, out of the 129 women who had been introduced to health facilities for forensic testing, only one of the women confirmed that her referral for forensic examination was based on a court order, and nine others stated that they had voluntarily agreed to undergo the tests. These women confirmed that the reason they volunteered was to get rid of the allegations against them.
The report shows that 64 out of 129 respondents (49.6%) admitted that they were referred to health facilities for forensic examinations by the police, 32 (24.8%) by the Attorney General’s Office, and 5 (3.9%) by safehouses.
Only one respondent (0.8%) stated that the court ordered her to undergo gynecological testing. 14 respondents (10.9%) did not answer the question about which institution ordered their forensic examination.
The report says 62 of the interviewees were married (48.1% of all respondents), 34 were single (26.4%), 12 were engaged (9.3%), 14 were widowed (10.9%) and seven were divorced (5.4%).
Also, out of all 129 respondents, 78 of them (60.5%) were in prison, nine (7%) were in police custody, and 42 others (32.6%) were in safehouses, the report says.
The report says that from a legal point of view, forced gynecological examinations, including virginity tests and tests performed to determine rape, adultery or sodomy, are against women’s human dignity, and violate women’s human rights.
Under Articles 7 and 24 of Afghanistan’s Constitution and paragraph 5 of Article 13 of the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women, as well as articles 6-10 of the Law on the Prevention of Torture, any act that violates human dignity, is strictly prohibited.
According to the respondents, women have been arrested on various charges and then sent to health facilities for forensic medical testing.
Out of the 129 questioned, 60 respondents (46.5%) were accused of adultery, 31 (24%) were accused of running away from home, 23 (17.8%) were accused of murder, 6 (4.7%) were accused of being raped, 3 (2.3%) were accused of theft, 3 (2.3%) were accused of trafficking, 2 (1.6%) were accused of giving wrong information, and one person (0.8%) was accused of escaping home and of sodomy and was arrested and sent to health facilities for forensic medical examinations by police and detective units.
“We want amendments to Articles 640, 19 and 49 in the penal code. And we call for the punishment of any person who asks for this test and the doctors who conduct these tests in contravention of required measures,” said Shabnam Salehi, a commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
“Unfortunately, the basic procedures for research have not been followed in the study. The Attorney General’s Office considers all reports that are based on scientific measures,” said Jamshid Rasuli, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office.
The report shows that 44 of the respondents (34.1%) were tested to prove the presence or absence of sperm in their genital organs, 31 (24.0%) were tested to determine their virginity, 29 (22.5%) were tested to determine recent sexual intercourse, 6 (4.7%) were tested to determine if they had been raped, and 19 respondents (14.7%) did not answer the question related to the gynecological examinations.
“The amendment of article 640 of the penal code was approved by the president and has been sent for approval to the parliament. Based on this amendment, virginity tests without both the consent of the woman and a court order are banned,” said Amanat Riyazat, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice.
“No test has been conducted without the individual’s consent and a court order,” said Akmar Samsor, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health.
The respondents of the research referred to various negative consequences of forced gynecological examination.
Out of all 129 respondents, 26 of them (20.2%) said they felt extreme hatred towards those who introduced them to forensics for gynecological examination, 22 of them (17.1%) said they felt hatred towards the doctor who conducted the test, and six of them (4.7%) said they hated their family for it.
Also, 24 respondents (18.6%) expressed feelings of deep sorrow and pain saying that those tests felt like torture.
Ten respondents (7.8%) said that they experienced isolation after the test, and four respondents (3.1%) admitted that they thought of suicide after the test, the report says.
The report concludes that 12 respondents (9.3%) confirmed that they felt all of the emotional states mentioned and that the remaining 25 respondents (19.4%) did not answer the question about the psychological consequences of forced gynecological examinations.
A similar study was conducted by the watchdog organization five years ago.