Recently uncovered United Kingdom Home Office documents show that the British government hid how often it subjected female immigrants hoping to enter the country to “virginity tests.”
The documents, discovered by Australian legal academics Dr. Marinella Marmo and Dr. Evan Smith, suggest that at least 80 south Asian women underwent “virginity tests” in the late 1970s.
Alex Lyon, a former Labour immigration minister, called for the practice to be stopped in 1975, but the documents show that 73 women were subjected to the tests in New Delhi and nine in Bombay at British embassies between 1976 and 1979. The tests were applied to women coming to Britain to marry British citizens to confirm the their marital status.
Marmo and Smith said UK immigration officers justified the use of “virginity tests” on the stereotype of south Asian women as “submissive, meek and tradition-bound.” The officers apparently believed the women were always virgins before they married.
The British government previously acknowledged two “virginity test” cases after The Guardian reported the case of a 35-year-old teacher from India who was forced to undergo a test in 1979.
“There were a lot of machinations to deny or limit what was made public about these cases, which lends credence to the idea that they knew it was something bad, that it was a gross violation of human rights,” Smith said.
Recently, Amnesty International condemned the Egyptian military for conducting “virginity tests” on female protesters.