In RSAC Middle East facilities, RINJ Foundation Sexual Assault Clinicians are learning that the attitude of many people within the Kurdish and Yazidi cultures is causing the death of hundreds if not thousands of young women.
One very experienced nurse wrote in a report in February 2015,
“I have girls on diapers because their anuses and colons are so badly traumatized they have no control. I have one pt [patient] who was impaled with a gun barrel and shot. She needed more surgery. We got her out of the country completely. I took her myself with the help of our security guys. I cried in the dark from Mosul to Erbil. We have a priest in Erbil who I work with. He said I looked like the pt because I was so worn out. Anyway. That case had a good result. She lost much of her lower intestine and we have a surgeon looking into fixing her womb but I think child bearing is out for her. She is 15. [tears] The sadder thing is that if her family finds out they will kill her too. We simply let the family think that she died. The girl can decide later what she wants to do once she is whole.”
The practice of attempting to determine a woman’s virginity by using a “two finger test” has no scientific validity and should never be used to examine victims of sexual trauma, according to a recent handbook from the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO warns that “there is no place for virginity (or ‘two-finger’) testing,” which is still used in some countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Medical professionals say that the “two finger test” is not an accurate indicator of a woman’s virginity, largely because it’s based on myths about the female anatomy and furthermore, by international standards, such a test done on a minor or any person unable to consent is a serious crime of rape.
RAPE: The RINJ Foundation has, after two years of global rape research, adopted the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of “rape” (which in somewhat different terms is also the Unted States’ federal meaning of rape) as
the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim
Although the WHO handbook is specific to rape victims, it’s renewing calls for a total ban on virginity tests around the world, which advocates say should be considered a violation of women’s rights. The RINJ Foundation , which has been documenting the practice in places like Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, is calling on governments to follow in WHO’s lead and put and end to this approach to female sexuality altogether.
Focus on virginity devalues rape survivors.
A specialized RSAC (RINJ Sexual Assault Clinic) nurse recently reported:
“Clearly we are paving new ground in Kurdistan. The mental health care we do is my primary focus. RSAC cannot just be about gynecology and brains as it turns out we need to go back to the NGO basics and do what the host country failed to do– care for the children and their families. That means special education because rape survivors in most of the world cannot tell their family they are no longer a ‘virgin’ nor their community. We [currently] need to create an environment in which their basic needs are provided in isolation of people who would hurt them in any way, [including their family and community].”
Women in many countries are often required to endure the so-called “virginity test” for reasons that often have nothing to do with the woman’s interests. Turkey, Kurdistan, Egypt, Morocco and Iraq, to name a few, have had their fair share of controversial “virginity testing”.
According to a Nurse-led RSAC manager in Mosul, Iraq:
“Here in Mosul and in the surrounding regions of Kurdistan, Focus on Virginity is Causing RSAC Patients to Contemplate Suicide. Many rape survivors who are not under any kind of formal care do commit suicide. The problem is the obsession with virginity among the Iraqi and Kurdish communities. This obsession is handing an easy genocidal weapon of rape to the Islamic State.”
Prejudice and negative stereotypes against women and girls are passed off as medical science by many doctors who wrongly believe they can determine a woman’s virginity.
Emphasizing the importance of virginity can ultimately make rape victims feel worthless because they’re not “pure” anymore. Research has also found that teens who take “virginity pledges” are more likely to struggle to maintain healthy relationships as adults, and may actually have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections. (Dr. Sherria Ayuandini)
In Kurdistan and in other places in Iraq, the “virginity test” is either visual or done by forcing “two-fingers’ into the vagina. A woman is considered a virgin when there is no visible sign of “defect” on her hymen and a tight vaginal opening. Neither is valid.
These are the two aspects often used to determine a woman’s virginity: an intact hymen and a tight vaginal opening. Both in some arcane cultures are believed to signify virginity in women; but neither is a reliable basis for such a conclusion. In either case, the “test” invasion is an assaultive sex crime.
The hymen is a membrane in the vaginal canal. Many people are under the impression that a virgin hymen resembles either one of these two things: a balloon-like membrane covering the vaginal canal, or a ring-like flesh with a smooth edge but in reality, neither are true.
- The hymen looks like the petals of a flower. It has notches, folds and clefts, even in its virgin state.
- The hymen is flexible with different densities.
- Some hymens are thin and some are thicker than others.
- In the event of a penetration, the hymen might be scarred but often, the hymen stretches and is left undamaged.
- It is inaccurate to think that a sexual act will always result in changes to the hymen.
- A virgin woman’s hymen might have a big opening and several clefts here and there; this is the type of hymen that many incorrectly believe to signify that a woman has experienced sexual penetrations.
Most practitioners are reluctant to be asked for their opinion on whether or not a woman is a virgin based on the condition of her hymen.
- The RINJ Foundation’s RSAC policy is that each patient’s case is completely private.
- The sexual conduct or virginity of a woman is her business.
- The sexual activity of a minor child involved with an adult is a criminal matter for legitimate law enforcement and properly licensed medical practitioners.
The RINJ Foundation’s RSACs are full service medical facilities for women and children. Community related services such as victim advocacy, crisis hotlines, community outreach, and education programs are also available at the discretion of the local RSAC nurse-led team.
- Trauma care;
- Sexually transmitted disease detection treatment and prevention;
- Physical injuries treatment and minor surgery;
- Sexual assault forensic testing;
- Pregnancy issues, from abortion to delivering your baby;
- Legal course of action counseling;
- Criminal prosecution assistance;
- Mental health care; and
- all needed follow-up care.