Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 02:44 GMT
Forced virginity tests banned
In rural areas virginity is a matter of family honour
By Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris
The Turkish Justice Minister has ordered officials to stop the controversial practice of forcing virginity tests on women and teenage girls.
The minister, Hasan Denizkurdu, said officials should not punish women in a way which, it says, could offend their feelings of shame or modesty.
The authorities will now only be able to force virginity tests on women with prior permission from a judge, if a test is required as evidence in a criminal case.
Testing has been quite common in the past, especially in conservative rural areas where virginity is seen as a matter of family honour rather than one of personal responsibility.
One focus of attention was state-run orphanages where a number of teenage girls committed suicide after being forcibly examined to see if their hymen was still intact.
The practice has created a growing chorus of complaints from groups campaigning for better women's rights. They will welcome the decree as an important step.
But they warn that implementation may be difficult and that a change in the law will not necessarily lead to a change in deeply-entrenched attitudes.
Even the Minister of Women's Affairs defended virginity testing last year as a part of cultural tradition, but she was forced to back-track after her remarks led to indignant calls for her resignation.