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So-called virginity testing, also referred to as hymen, two-finger, or per vaginal examination, is the inspection of the female genitalia to assess if the examinee has had or has been habituated to sexual intercourse. This paper is the first systematic review of available evidence on the medical utility of virginity testing by hymen examination and its potential impacts on the examinee.
Ten electronic databases and other sources for articles published in English were systematically searched from database inception until January 2017. Studies reporting on the medical utility or impact on the examinee of virginity testing were included. Evidence was summarized and assessed via a predesigned data abstraction form. Meta-analysis was not possible.
Seventeen of 1269 identified studies were included. Summary measures could not be computed due to study heterogeneity. Included studies found that hymen examination does not accurately or reliably predict virginity status. In addition, included studies reported that virginity testing could cause physical, psychological, and social harms to the examinee.
Despite the lack of evidence of medical utility and the potential harms, health professionals in multiple settings continue to practice virginity testing, including when assessing for sexual assault. Health professionals must be better informed and medical and other textbooks updated to reflect current medical knowledge. Countries should review their policies and move towards a banning of virginity testing.