Laura Clarke is an International Relations graduate living in London. She enjoys writing, talking and, thankfully, quite likes rain too.
Virginity Testing in School
Reports of virginity testing performed on young Zimbabwean schoolgirls have been met with criticism from women’s and children’s rights groups who are decrying the practice as a violation of dignity and respect. The tests were carried out on Grade 7 girls at Tsetse primary school without parental consent; parents have claimed that “the Child Protection Committee and the teachers threatened to beat up the pupils if they did not reveal whom they have slept with.”
Linda Valerie Guzha, the Zimbabwe Programme Director for Days for Girls, has termed the process of virginity testing on girls as “taking 10 steps back in empowering women.” Guzha has also expressed concern regarding the consequences of carrying out such tests: “taunting, stigmatisation, and bullying are to come into effect which may lead to serious incidences such as suicide amongst young girls.”
While the Minister for Education, Sports, Arts, and Culture, David Coltart, has stated that such practices run against official government policy, this fails to answer the question of why such actions would have been sanctioned by school officials. With women’s rights subject to an uphill battle in Zimbabwe, the decision to invoke virginity testing as an attempt to “curb immoral behaviour before marriage” is one aspect of a much broader narrative.
To truly eliminate the belief that rights violations such as these are prohibited, the government must take concrete steps in altering the underlying narrative. They must affirm, through both policy and practice, the equality of women and girls; until this is accepted as fact, practices that demean the position of females will continue to find a place in Zimbabwean society. The process of change will be a slow one but there is no denying that the results would be well worth the effort.
Read more at A Safe World for Women.