Women around the world have been forced to undergo humiliating, oppressive, and invasive procedures in order to abide the laws and practices of their country. In the United States, women are being denied rights to their own reproductive systems by people preventing access to birth control and to abortion clinics, among other things. There are 28 documented countries in Africa that practice genital mutilation, meaning more than 85% of women have been affected. In addition to these other oppressing practices, we now add this new “health test” in Brazil.
A woman’s sexual health should be a right for no one but her own self, her doctor, and possibly her partner (if she so chooses). The key phrase here is chooses. This is what women in Brazil are lacking– choice– and it is causing an outrage, as it rightly should. Women who are under 25 and claim to not be sexually active must provide a doctor’s note proving their virginity in order to apply for state jobs.
Upon first reading this statement, I was a bundle of emotions: I was angry, appalled, and most of all disgusted. What would give anyone the feeling that they have the entitlement to mandate these women? To give anyone the right to have someone physically examine women’s bodies for something completely irrelevant to the position applied for?
Not only that, but it is a blatant misogynistic and sexist act; there is no requirement for men to do the same. While men are required to give prostate exam information and women are required to give mammogram information, neither of those tests make their virginity the business of the department they are working for.
The government is saying that the tests and pap smears are a part of health screening done for particular cancers; however many feel it is a violation of their privacy. Some government representatives agree and do not think it is okay to require these tests, as it goes against their constitution. Many members of the Brazilian public also agree, and I definitely do too. The state agency will continue their investigation on the policy, and will hopefully soon end this terribly invasive requirement.
It is so important that as women we continue to speak out against those who try and limit us, or treat us as less than we are. We are not something to invade. We are people – complex people – who deserve the same privacy and right to our own bodies, just as anyone else.