This forensic brief examines the validity of the use of hymen examinations to determine a women’s “virginity.” Numerous medical studies undertaken in recent decades across multiple countries have demonstrated that there is no factual, scientific, or medical basis for using hymen size, morphology, or integrity to determine whether a woman has experienced vaginal penetration, and therefore the state of her “virginity.” Moreover, evaluations to examine the hymen are often undertaken without the consent of the woman or in a context of duress or threat of force. Such examinations can be psychologically and – in some instances – physically harmful to women and girls. Given that these examinations are medically unnecessary, it is unethical for physicians or health professionals to perform them.
In cultures in which female virginity before marriage is prized, commonly assumed indicators of virginity are an “intact” hymen and blood on the sheets of the marital bed at first intercourse as a result of the hymen being “broken.” Multiple medical and scientific studies have refuted these assumptions and demonstrated that there is no evidence to support these beliefs.
In the brief, we conclude that the examination of the hymen for purposes of determining a woman’s “virginity” has no clinical or scientific value. The use of such examinations within any context attempting to determine a woman’s sexual status is in violation of basic medical and legal standards. Consequently, health professionals requested to perform hymen examinations for purposes of determining a woman’s “virginity” should refuse to do so.