What’s wrong with a virginity test?
Rapper T.I. sparks a bioethical controversy
If you follow the American rapper T.I. on social media, you’ll know that he has unconventional views on women. For instance, when asked about the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton, he said that the Loch Ness monster had a better chance of being elected: “the world ain’t ready yet”.
That, naturally, landed him in hot water, but it was nothing compared to his admission that he accompanied his daughter, now 18, to her gynaecologist every year to check whether she was still a virgin. “Right after the birthday we celebrate,” T.I. said during a podcast interview. “Usually like the day after the party she’s enjoying her gifts. I put a sticky note on the door: ‘Gyno. Tomorrow. 9:30.’”
His daughter reacted to the uproar by unfollowing him on Twitter and Instagram.
New York legislators reacted by introducing legislation to prohibit doctors from performing virginity examinations. “The invasive procedure of a virginity examination violates the sanctity and purity of a female,” said State Senator Roxanne Persaud. “Whether a child or adult, this breaches not only moral grounds, but also the privacy entitled to a female and their doctor.”
However, bioethicist Bonnie Steinbock argues in The Hastings Center blog that legislation is not the answer. She agrees that virginity tests are morally objectionable for a number of reasons – apart from the fact that they are not reliable.
But she fears that legislation misses the real problem: that some parents do not trust their children. “Instead of focusing on the sexual status of their daughters as ‘untouched,’ parents should be focused on the ability of their sons and daughters to make serious, responsible decisions about sexuality.”
That goal is not achieved by a law banning virginity testing, but by communicating the strong interdisciplinary professional consensus on the importance of open and honest communication between parents and children about sex, parental respect for the emerging agency of adolescents, and the rights of adolescents to medical confidentiality and privacy.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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