Honour Killings: Virginity tests to be banned in UK

Honour Killings: Virginity tests to be banned in UK

England and Wales are set to make virginity testing a criminal offence as campaigners warn the unscientific practice leaves women and girls at risk of so-called 'honour' killings.

The procedure involves an examination to assess whether the hymen is intact. This is based on the false but widely held belief that all women and girls' hymens are broken in the first instance of penetrative vaginal sex.

The move to criminalise the practice follows a private member's bill introduced by Conservative MP Richard Holden to outlaw the intrusive procedure. 

With the backing of the Department of Health and Social Care, the proposals have now been introduced into the Health and Care Bill.

The draft legislation also includes for the first time the banning of hymenoplasty - the process by which the hymen is temporarily reconstructed. The procedure is also known as hymen or virginity 'repair'.

Under the bill, anyone found to have carried out the procedure would be breaking the law.   

Campaigners have raised concerns that any woman or girl who 'fails' a virginity test could be at risk of a so-called honour killing. 

Heshu Yones, whose death in 2002 was the first UK murder to be recognised by police as an honour killing, was killed by her father after allegedly failing a virginity test. She was 16 years old. 

Karma Nirvana, a charity aiming to end honour-based abuse in the UK, has seen a 75 per cent increase in calls to its national helpline regarding virginity testing and hymenoplasty since October last year.