“The Virgin in Prayer” by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (c. 1645), National Gallery (Accession No. NG200), London, Author/Source Web Gallery of Art (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)
WARNING: Graphic Images
Clinics in Britain offer controversial but ineffective tests for virginity which can place lives at risk . Young women who “fail” such tests may be subjected to violence or sexual assault, starvation, banishment from their communities, and – in extreme cases – honor killings.
Shame and Dishonor
In a few cultures, the loss of virginity prior to marriage is still viewed as bringing shame and dishonor on the family and community as a whole. For that reason, virginity testing is often required for marriage.
Of course, it is always the woman’s virginity called into question.
Women may be forced by parents, potential partners, or future in-laws to submit to virginity testing.
Virginity tests are, also, at times carried out on sexual assault victims to verify that rape has taken place. Needless to say, the testing is equally ineffective for that purpose, though it is traumatic. Continue reading
WARNING: Graphic Images
Incest, the least reported form of sexual abuse, exists worldwide. Even when incest is disclosed to other family members, a family may want to keep the abuse secret from society at large, in the name of so called “honor”. There can, also, be governmental reluctance to investigate matters considered of a highly personal nature.
This leaves victims without recourse.
Pakistan – Human Rights Violations
Pakistan is just one country where these factors come into play . The UN estimates that 36% of girls and 29% of boys in Pakistan experience sexual abuse. An estimated 90% of street children have been sexually abused .
The situation is complicated by the fact that women have so little power over their own lives, and so few options other than staying in an abusive marriage. Mothers are, in effect, as trapped as their children.
Despite this (or because of it), both mothers and fathers have been known to participate in honor killings.
As long ago as 1989, Zein and Maria Isa, a Pakistani couple living in St. Louis, jointly murdered their daughter, a high school senior, for taking a part-time job at Wendy’s, and dating a boy of whom they did not approve . Though the couple claimed Tina had attacked them, this was proven untrue when it was revealed the murder had been recorded. Zein Isa had been under surveillance as a possible terrorist, and a listening device installed in the couple’s home.
Little has changed in Pakistan. Earlier this month, 18 y.o. Zeenat Rafique was tied to a bed, then set afire by her mother and brother . Zeenat’s crime was that she had married without her family’s permission. Continue reading