New York lawmakers seek to ban doctors from performing 'virginity checks'

State lawmakers in New York have introduced legislation that would ban physicians in the state from performing “virginity checks.”

A bill that was introduced in the New York State Assembly on Monday seeks to prohibit physicians in the state from “performing or supervising virginity examinations,” a memorandum for the legislation states. A companion bill was also introduced in the state Senate later this week.

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If the legislation is passed, physicians who perform virginity examinations, which the bill text describes as procedures designed to determine whether a woman has had sexual intercourse, would be subjected to professional misconduct penalties and possible criminal charges.

A memorandum for the assembly bill said the purpose of the legislation “is to prevent the performance of hymen examinations on women as a means to ascertain whether a woman is a virgin.” 

“These examinations are not only a violation of women's and girls' human rights, but in cases of rape can cause additional pain and mimic the original act of sexual violence, leading to re-experience, re-traumatization and re-victimization,” lawmakers continued in the memorandum. 

"Many women suffer from adverse short- and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences of this practice. This includes anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. In extreme cases, women or girls may attempt suicide or be killed in the name of 'honour,'" the memorandum stated further, while also noting that the "virginity" is not a medical term but rather a "social, cultural and religious construct - one that reflects gender discrimination against women and girls."

The laws come after rapper T.I. received widespread criticism earlier this month for a recent interview in which he claimed he takes his 18-year-old daughter to the gynecologist on a yearly basis to "check her hymen." 

“[The doctor is] like, ‘You know, sir, I have to, in order to share information’ — I’m like, ‘Deyjah, they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there anything you would not want me to know? See, Doc? Ain’t no problem,’” he said then.

He has since backtracked his statements in another interview, saying his remarks were “misconstrued and misconceived.” 

State Sen. Roxanne Persaud (D), who teamed up with Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D) on the legislation, told The New York Post in an interview that she was “horrified” nonetheless by T.I.’s comments in the earlier interview.

“If a celebrity can impose his power to ensure his 18-year-old daughter gets checked, imagine what can be done in households across New York state,” she said.