Story at a glance

  • Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages proposed a bill that would make exams determining if a female is a virgin illegal.
  • This was a result of rapper T.I.’s comments about his daughter, saying he takes her to get a “hymen exam” every year.
  • Multiple officials have denounced virginity tests as an outdated practice, but no laws criminalize them.

In response to comments made by celebrity T.I., New York State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages introduced a ban on hymen exams for the purposes of verifying if a female is a virgin, or if she has had sexual intercourse. Partnering with New York State Senator Roxanne Persaud, her bill would make hymen examinations a class D felony under New York law. 

Virginity tests made headlines in November when American rapper and entertainer T.I., born Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr., stated that he and his daughter, 18-year-old Deyjah, “have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen.” T.I. made these remarks while on the podcast called Ladies Like Us, hosted by Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham. 

Speaking to Changing America, Solages stated that “hymen examinations have no scientific basis and are medically unnecessary.” Her comments join a chorus of other experts that denounce virginity exams. She further calls them “a form of violence against girls.” 

The World Health Organization has called for its elimination, saying virginity tests constitute “a violation of the human rights of girls and women, and can be detrimental to women’s and girls’ physical, psychological and social well-being.” Hymens can also be ‘broken’ through various physical activities, such as sports or inserting a tampon. Some women simply do not have one. 

Currently, however, no laws exist that prohibit the practice. 

Solanges’s bill has three main components to help make virginity tests illegal. It states that if a test is done in a medical setting by a medical professional, it will constitute medical malpractice, resulting in that professional losing their license.

Alternatively, if an exam or test is completed in a non-medical environment, it constitutes sexual abuse in the first degree — a felony in New York state. “We don’t want to prevent doctors from doing pelvic exams, but we want to prevent them from facilitating this horrible exam that has no scientific basis,” Solanges says. 

Performing the test couldn’t be classified as rape, because New York law would require it to have a “sexual gratification portion to it.” Still, Solanges wants to send a strong message. She says that some medical practitioners still receive requests to perform virginity tests, and she does not want T.I.’s celebrity to endorse the practice.

“He’s an influencer. Saying something like this, whether he is serious or sarcastic, might have some people thinking they should parent this way,” she explains. Solanges invited T.I. to show “good faith” and come to Albany to endorse the ban.

This bill would follow legislation that Solanges sponsored that bans nonconsensual pelvic exams. Governor of New York Anthony Cuomo signed it into law this past October. This law was applauded by the New York legislative advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood and the New York Civil Liberties Union. 

“We don't live in medieval times,” Solanges says. “Women are not property, they are human beings.”

Published on Dec 06, 2019