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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 02:26 GMT
Turkey scraps virginity tests
Girls in Ankara
Girls as young as 14 could have been subjected to tests
The Turkish Government has rescinded a controversial law that allowed school girls suspected of having pre-marital sex to be given virginity tests.

Forced gynaecological examinations were common practice under the old law until five students attempted suicide by taking rat poison rather than be subjected to the test.

Despite the high value placed on virginity in Turkey the tests were regarded as abhorrent by women's and human rights groups.

Correspondents say the issue highlighted a sharp division of attitudes in the cities, where many unmarried women live with their boyfriends, and the countryside, where dowries remain an important source of income and relatives sometimes kill girls suspected of losing their virginity.

Wording changed

No such tests are thought to have been carried out since January 1999, when the justice minister ordered a halt to them, unless they were specifically ordered by a judge to provide evidence in a criminal case.

On Tuesday, the government removed ambiguous wording from a law on school punishment that allowed school administrators to "determine" whether girls were virgins.

The amendment scrapping virginity tests was published in the government newspaper, the Official Gazette.

It eliminated any reference to girls' chastity but makes a broader reference to the expulsion of students not behaving properly in school.

Last year Health Minister Osman Durmus, a member of the far-right Nationalist Action Party, caused uproar when he called for girls who were not virgins to be expelled from government-run nursing high schools and barred from enrolling in other state-run schools.

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 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
27 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Turkey
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