The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
View E-Paper

Bill to criminalise virginity testing to be tabled in parliament in the coming weeks

Sabrina Zammit Monday, 20 November 2023, 13:44 Last update: about 7 months ago

A bill proposing the criminalisation of virginity testing will be tabled in parliament in the coming weeks, Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality Rebecca Buttigieg said.

Junior legal officer within the human Rights directorate Jurgen Dingli said that this is the first law of its kind for Malta as even what is classified as virginity testing within the Maltese constitution needs to be defined.

In his explanation, as a human rights lawyer, Dingli said that virginity testing as is being proposed encapsules gynaecological testing with the purpose of determining whether a woman is sexually active.

ADVERTISEMENT

He said that this kind of testing does not have any scientific or clinical basis to determine whether a woman is 'pure'. Additionally, apart from physical pain, this kind of testing can also cause infections together with traumatic psychological and social harm.

The lawyer said that it is important to criminalise virginity testing, which is an act of gender-based violence as per the Malta endorsed Istanbul convention. Additionally, it also breaches other human rights, he said

If the bill is enacted into law, Malta will be supporting several international organisations in their fight against virginity testing such UN Women and the WHO.

From the legal aspect, the bill proposes that whoever is found culpable under the proposed definition of virginity testing, will be liable to a prison term of one year up to five, of which degree can also increase up to two degrees if circumstances are proven to be grave (such as the criminal act being done on a minor).

Dingli explained that even in cases where the victim accepts to be tested, the alleged abuser will still be taken to court.

In order to differentiate between medically needed gynaecological exams and virginity testing, Dingli explained that the bill proposes the reliance on the scope behind the testing being done. Thus, he said, that medically needed gynaecological exams will not be covered as 'criminal acts' by the bill.

Other than the person who would have carried out the virginity testing, the bill also proposes to prosecute other individuals who would have in some way "helped, tempted, suggested, incided, or forced virginity testing".

Buttigieg said that although this kind of test is not normal in Maltese culture, the nation should not take it for granted that it does not happen.

Dingli said that from research done on the topic at a national level, testing is mentioned in some court cases. However up until now, nothing could be done as there is no mention of it in the laws.

Moreover he said that despite suggesting evidence of this happening in the country, there are no statistics on the matter. 


  • don't miss