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New York state legislators have filed two bills to ban the practice of virginity testing, which seeks to confirm the presence of a girl or woman's hymen as evidence that she is not sexually active.
Lawmakers in New York have filed legislation that would outlaw the practice of “virginity exams,” a concept that made headlines last month after rapper T.I. said on a podcast that he accompanies his teenage daughter to the gynecologist to make sure that her hymen remains intact.
The rapper told the hosts of "Ladies Like Us" that his daughter’s doctor informed him that the hymen can be broken in non-sexual ways, including bike riding, horseback riding and other athletic activities.
“So I say ‘Look, doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports,’” he said. “‘Just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.'"
Identical bills, one filed in the New York State Assembly and the other in the Senate, would prohibit “licensed medical practitioners from performing or supervising virginity examinations” and subject offenders “to professional misconduct policies as well as possible criminal charges.”
The legislation would not ban examinations of the hymen for medical reasons, but “the performance of hymen examinations on women as a means to ascertain whether a woman is a virgin.”
Supporters of the bill said those exams, which they described as “common and widespread,” are a violation of women’s rights, can re-traumatize rape victims and have lasting effects for patients, including physical pain and depression. In some cultures, the results of a virginity exam can be used as justification to harm or even kill women, Rep. Michaelle Solages, a Democrat from Elmont and the Assembly bill’s main sponsor, wrote in a memo.
“The term "virginity" is not a medical or scientific term. Rather, the concept of "virginity" is a social, cultural and religious construct—one that reflects gender discrimination against women and girls,” she said. “Considering the federal government has yet to enact legislation to prohibit this invasive and medically unnecessary procedure, the onus of eliminating ‘virginity tests’ is on state governments.”
There are currently no state or federal laws that prohibit virginity testing, though a number of other countries have outlawed the practice. The World Health Organization in 2018 advocated for the abolishment of the exams, saying in a statement that virginity testing has “no scientific or clinical basis. There is no examination that can prove a girl or woman has had sex—and the appearance of (a) girl’s or woman’s hymen cannot prove whether they have had sexual intercourse, or are sexually active or not.”
After his original comments were widely criticized, T.I. apologized to his daughter and did a second interview to clarify, saying on the Facebook Watch show "Red Table Talk" that he had exaggerated the issue and had never accompanied the teenager into an exam room. He said the exams were performed when his daughter, who is now 18, was 15 and 16-years-old.
"I came to clear up any misconceptions that have been surrounding how we interact and parent and what is appropriate and inappropriate," he said. "I think all of this surrounds a conversation that I was having in a very joking manner, when asked how do I deal with parenting in this day and age. And so I just began to, you know, from a place of truth, I began to embellish and exaggerate."
"I never said I was in any exam room. That is an assumption—that is a falsity," he continued. "I never said that it was being done present day, as an 18-year-old. And I never said that her mother wasn't present. Her mom was present every time."
The bill was referred last week to the Standing Committee on Health and is currently awaiting a hearing.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.