Will States Finally Start Banning Virginity Tests?

Woman at gynecologist's office.
Photo: Fuse/Getty Images

When rapper T.I. announced last month that he subjects his daughter to yearly gynecological exams to check if her hymen is still intact — also known as a “virginity test” — his remarks were met with widespread outrage. Not only is the procedure medically unnecessary, it also has zero scientific basis and can have damaging psychological effects. While T.I. has since claimed that he was “joking,” his comments seem to have inspired people to take virginity testing more seriously. Now, New York has taken a historic first step to ban the procedure.

Last week, New York assemblywoman Michaelle Solages introduced a proposal to ban virginity tests, telling the New York Times that T.I.’s remarks had left her “angry” and “very upset.” “To use your platform to say that you did this is just misogynistic and it sets the women’s movement back,” Solages said, adding that it “made [her] realize that we have to be implementing laws to stop this.” The Times reports that Democrat Roxanne Persaud has introduced a companion bill in the State Senate.

The legislation would ban medical professionals from “the performance of hymen examinations on women as a means to ascertain whether a woman is a virgin,” which practitioners typically do by inserting fingers or a speculum into a woman’s vagina to see if the hymen is torn. (The test is based on the false assumption that a woman’s torn hymen is evidence that she has had penetrative sex; however, some people are born with hymens that are already open, and hymens can tear from activities other than sex.) Under the proposal, practitioners who performed the test could be penalized for professional misconduct.

The ban would also crack down on virginity tests outside of medical settings, classifying the “procedure” as sexual assault.

While medical professionals worldwide, as well as the United Nations and the World Health Organization, have repeatedly called for a global ban on the practice, a recent investigation by Marie Claire and the Fuller Project found that the U.S. has no laws banning the procedure. New York is poised to be the first state to ban the practice.

“While we would have to review the specific language, this practice, as described, is disturbing, has no real medical value and should not be an option in this state, nor any state,” Melissa DeRosa, the chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, told the Times. Mike Murphy, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, echoed DeRosa’s statement: “We want to ensure that people are protected, and this practice is deeply troubling.”

Will States Finally Start Banning Virginity Tests?