Turkish envoy denounces virginity tests

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Series Details Vol.7, No.31, 2.8.01, p3
Publication Date 01/08/2001
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Date: 01/08/01

By John Shelley

TURKEY'S Ambassador to the EU, Nihat Akyol, says moves to force female medical students in his country to undergo virginity tests will come to nothing.

Responding to a call by Health Minister Osman Durmus for checks on women at government-run nursing schools, Akyol told European Voice that the country's existing ban on virginity tests would not be lifted. "There will be no controls or checks of that kind in Turkish life," he added.

Even if a government department were to introduce such checks, Turkey's ministry responsible for women's issues has pledged to take legal action because the regulations would breach UN conventions on non-discrimination and child protection. "These treaties form binding rules for Turkey," explained Akyol.

The ambassador said the health ministry had sent him a communication "clarifying" the regulation and making it clear that the reintroduction of the virginity tests is not being considered.

Durmus provoked worldwide condemnation when he introduced a regulation earlier this month that would mean student nurses could be expelled for having sex - and that any suspected of having intercourse could be forced to undergo examinations to establish if they were virgins.

Dutch Liberal MEP Lousewies van der Laan this week wrote to Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit demanding the regulation be retracted. "I would like to express my deepest condemnation of this measure that represents a clear and profound violation of fundamental human rights," she wrote. "These exams are a violation of the physical security and integrity of women. They involve pain, humiliation and intimidation."

Virginity is a highly emotive issue in Turkey, dividing religious traditionalists and staunch secularists.

Forced virginity tests were commonplace until the practice was banned in 1999 after five teenage girls took rat poison and threw themselves into a water tank rather than submit to the test.

This latest scandal has been a severe embarrassment for the government.

Turkish media have reported that the leader of the extreme-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, ordered Durmus to take a holiday after he called for the test to be reintroduced to medical schools. "Go wherever you want, but go," he is said to have told him.

The MHP is the second largest party in Turkey's fragile three-party ruling coalition. Akyol denied the row was indicative of a cultural rift between his country and the EU, describing the "debate" which erupted following the scandal as "useful". "This is a delicate area for Turkey," he said. "But you can be assured that Turkish society is in touch with EU norms."

Turkey's ambassador to the EU, Nihat Akyol, says moves to force female medical students in his country to undergo virginity tests will come to nothing.

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