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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Uproar as Turkey plans virginity tests
Girls in Ankara
Girls as young as 14 could be subjected to tests
The human rights pressure group, Human Rights Watch, has called on Turkey to withdraw an order authorising virginity tests on nursing students suspected of having sex.


Imposition of this test on girls - and the subsequent denial of education opportunities based on test results - represent an intolerable form of gender discrimination

Human Rights Watch
In a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, Human Rights Watch said that the order introduced by Health Minister Osman Durmus was a "profound violation of women's human rights".

The regulation says that girls studying at government-run nursing high schools should be expelled for having sex, and that those under suspicion should be subjected to gynaecological examinations.

It also says that, once expelled, girls should be forbidden from studying at any government institution.

Rat poison

The order has sparked an uproar in Turkey, with angry protests being made by women's and human rights groups.


When it is enshrined in law that the state can force girls to take virginity tests it has an effect on millions and millions of girls

Martina Vandenberg, Human Rights Watch
Forced virginity tests on girls suspected of having had premarital sex were common until the practice was banned in 1999, when five girls attempted suicide by taking rat poison rather than submit to the tests.

Pre-marital sex under the age of 18 is illegal in Turkey.

"Imposition of this test on girls - and the subsequent denial of education opportunities based on test results - represent an intolerable form of gender discrimination," Human Rights Watch said in its letter.

A representative of the group's Women's Rights division, Martina Vandenberg, told the BBC that the Health Minister's order was an attempt to circumvent the 1999 ban.

She said the students - aged 14 to 18 - were children under international law, and had a right to education.

Grounds for suspicion

She added: "When it is enshrined in law that the state can force girls to take virginity tests, it has an effect on millions and millions of girls in Turkey, in the sense that there is constantly the threat of a virginity exam hanging over their head."

Even innocent activities, such as having a picnic with boys, could be perceived in Turkey as grounds for suspicion, she said.

The Health Ministry's order technically avoids the ban on forced virginity tests, because students enrolling at nursing schools would be voluntarily submitting themselves to the rules of the establishment.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Martina Vandenberg, Human Rights Watch
"The tests violate women's bodily integrity"
See also:

07 Jan 99 | Europe
Forced virginity tests banned
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