Files Reveal 'Virginity Tests' on Immigrants in UK in '70s

Procedure checked out wanna-be brides from South Asia
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2011 3:57 AM CDT
Brit Border Unit 'Viginity Tests' Trigger Outrage
Police officers routine patrol London's Heathrow Airport, where immigration officials once ordered "virginity tests" for South Asian women immigrating to Britain.   (AP Photo/Steve Parsons/PA)

The British government is being called on to apologize to South Asian women who were ordered to undergo "virginity tests" by immigration officials. At least 80 women from India and Pakistan attempting to emigrate to Britain to marry were examined by immigration docs in the late 1970s to “check their marital status," according to confidential Home Office files obtained by the Guardian. At that time no visa was needed if a woman planned to marry a British citizen within 3 months. The procedures were dropped in 1979 after a teacher on her way to marry her fiance complained when she was examined by a doctor at Heathrow Airport.

She was paid some $700 for her distress but no apology was offered, reports the Telegraph. Officials at the time justified the tests based on on the stereotype of south Asian women as "submissive, meek, and tradition-bound," and on the "absurd generalization" that they were always virgins before they married, notes an academic report quoted by the Guardian. “These practices occurred 30 years ago and were clearly wrong," said a spokesman for the UK border agency. (Read more virginity stories.)

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