Harrow West MP Gareth Thomas must publicly apologise for administering “virginity tests” to Indian female immigrants hoping to enter the country in the 1970s on marriage visas
The BBC reports that women are being offered controversial “virginity tests” at British medical clinics.
The tests involve a vaginal examination to check if the hymen is intact – the intrusive tests are considered a violation of human rights by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations, which want to see them banned. They are not banned in Britain.
Harrow is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country with substantial Indian background population and the recent focus on the virginity tests has refreshed ugly memories of what happened in 1970s under Labour government.
An Indian woman who arrived at Heathrow on 24 January 1979 seeking entry as the fiancee of a man living in Southall was subjected to undergo a gynaecological examination ‘which may be vaginal if necessary’ on the instruction of an immigration officer, Runnymed Trust reports . Deputy Indian High Commissioner met an Under-secretary of State for the Foreign Office to register a formal protest.
A Harrow community leader Kanti Nagda MBE, now retired Harrow social worker who established the Sangat Community Centre in Harrow, remembers it well how local Indian community felt about the virginity tests under the watch of then home secretary Merlyn Rees who was educated and later taught at the Harrow Weald Grammar School, Harrow: “The community was shocked and devastated to find these most disgraceful virginity tests are carried out under a Labour home secretary – asking for any apology is in order” said Mr Nagda.
The home office then claimed that such tests helped them to identify women who attempted to enter the country illegally by establishing whether a woman is a bona fide fiancee.
This sparked global concern and investigative reporting:
The Telegraph reported: the government is facing calls for an official apology after documents showed that Asian women were subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” when they tried to move to Britain in the late 1970s.
At least 80 women from India and Pakistan hoping to emigrate to Britain to marry were intimately examined by immigration staff to “check their marital status”, according to confidential Home Office file.
The New York Times reported: the British government concealed how often it administered “virginity tests” to female immigrants hoping to enter the country in the 1970s on marriage visas.
The documents, unearthed by Marinella Marmo and Evan Smith, legal researchers from Flinders University in Australia, showed that the tests had been administered more than 80 times at the British Embassies in New Delhi and Mumbai – the extent of the practice was not clear until now.