Virginity Exams Could Soon Be Banned In California

Supermajority Education Fund

February 13, 2020

California wants to be one of the first states in the country to ban medical professionals from subjecting women and girls to virginity exams. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat whose district encompasses southern San Diego County, introduced Assembly Bill 1909 in early January.

This bill is straightforward, and only three sentences long. The crucial text: “A healing arts licensee shall not perform an examination or test on a patient for the purpose of determining whether the patient is a virgin.”

Lawmakers in New York state introduced similar legislation last year after rapper and entertainer T.I. made comments in November about accompanying his teenage daughter to her gynecological appointments and demanding the doctor check her hymen to see if it’s “still intact.” In a talk show appearance in late November, T.I. claimed he had been exaggerating, but his initial statements still sparked action on the topic of virginity exams —including Gonzalez’s bill.

“This is so important to me, the autonomy of a woman and young girl,” Gonzalez told Supermajority News. “We’ve got to get past this idea of purity tests. It’s just so fundamental to what I believe about owning ourselves.”

While California leads the way with regards to many facets of reproductive freedom, Gonzalez wants to get this law on the books, so this “unnecessary” procedure can’t be performed. “There’s no law prohibiting [virginity tests],” she told Supermajority News. “It’s something that’s unnecessary and, frankly, something that if it was done by anyone who isn’t a doctor would be considered sexual assault.”

The World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) uses the term “hymen checks” for the procedure described in both the California and New York bills; the procedure typically includes someone inserting a finger or speculum into the vagina to check the hymen and vaginal wall status. In October 2018, the World Health Organization and United Nations Human Rights Office and U.N. Women issued a joint statement calling the practice of virginity tests “a violation of human rights” as well as “unscientific and “harmful.”

“Virginity testing is rooted in entrenched systems of discrimination against women and girls (i.e. gender discrimination). It further reinforces socio-cultural norms that perpetuate women’s inequality, including stereotyped views of female morality and sexuality, and serves to exercise control over women and girls,” according to the joint statement.

Gonzalez told Supermajority News that she doesn’t anticipate any problems getting the bill passed into law. “No one wants to admit they’re against this,” she said. “If the rapper T.I. wants to come out and defend why he wants to subject his daughter to this, I’d be happy to have that debate.”

Here is the full text of California state assembly bill 1909, sponsored by Gonzalez. The bill is currently in committee.