A colleague of mine brought the issue of virginity testing to my attention after he had read the article below:
I then decided to read a little more around the issue myself, girls as young as ten are being subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment of having elderly women examine them to ensure that their hymen is still intact. The more I read the angrier I got, these are just children for heaven’s sake! As I read many questions came to mind, why is virginity so important, why only is the girl child tested, at what point is it discussed within the family that it’s now time to test, is it even discussed, what is the history and rationale of this practice, what business does an old woman have to examine these children? I won’t even mention the hygiene questions that caused me a fair amount of trepidation!
Just by chance a fellow feminist sent me a paper she wrote on her daughter’s 18th birthday. The essence of the paper was the struggle she faced as to what to tell her daughter as she attained this momentous age and find her way in the world as a young woman. Virginity obviously was high on the agenda, why is the female virginity so important and who placed such importance on it? My question was answered in this paper succinctly “preserving virginity was important because it increased the value of the women especially at marriage.” Hence it was imperative to ensure that girls remain virgins so that when it came time for marriage, lobola can be charged at a high price. This is a product of patriarchy; so men placed the importance as they benefit from the lobola when their daughters and sisters are married. Today the world has changed, women’s value is not based on her virginity and her ability to bag a man. .
In 2001 Chief Makoni made news headline for reviving the issue of virginity testing in Zimbabwe. His argument was that it would help curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. Does anyone even enquire as to whether a man is a virgin before he marries, is anyone even interested? Have the men insisting on marrying these virgins been tested for HIV themselves or better still is there anyone testing boys or men for virginity, is it even possible?
This myth however has been debunked as married women have been infected by HIV by the very husbands who are supposed to value their virginity. My understanding of value, is that if you have something valuable you cherish and protect it and do not want to see harm come to it, somehow this doesn’t apply to virginity. Infecting your intimate partner with a deadly disease is abuse and it should be treated with the seriousness it deserves.
Virginity testing is barbaric and it falls under the rubric of violence against women and it should be stopped and not normalised under the guise of curbing HIV or culture and tradition.