Tonia Antoniazzi MP calls on the Government to Ban so-called ‘virginity tests’ and hymenoplasty
This week Tonia Antoniazzi MP joined a cross-party coalition of MPs and women’s rights organisations in backing New Clause 1 & 2 to the Health and Care Bill, to ban so-called ‘virginity testing’ and the practice of hymen ‘repair’ surgery.
So-called ‘virginity tests’ and the practice of hymen ‘repair’ surgery are both currently legal and are being conducted by doctors in the UK to ‘check’ or ‘restore’ the virginity of a woman, often prior to an arranged marriage.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that so-called ‘virginity testing’ is “A violation of the victims human rights and is associated with both immediate and long-term consequences that are detrimental to her physical, psychological and social well-being.”
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) strongly oppose the practices of virginity testing and hymenoplasty on the grounds that neither is medically required in any circumstance and support both the new clauses.
Tonia Antoniazzi MP said “Women and girls deserve to grow up free from notions of ‘breaking their womanhood’ so they ‘bleed on their wedding night’. These traumatic practices have no basis in medical science, harm women and girls and perpetuate dangerous myths of ‘purity’.
“We must act now to stop both ‘virginity testing’ and hymen ‘repair’ surgery. That’s why I am backing New Clause 1&2 to the Health and Care Bill as I call on the Government to end this violence against women and girls for good”.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said, “We are very concerned that women are either being coerced into having these procedures or feel pressurised into having them so they can bleed during sex and can demonstrate they are a virgin on their wedding night.
“The RCOG and the RCM want to see both virginity testing and hymenoplasty banned in the UK. This will send a clear message that there is no place in the medical world for these procedures and that women deserve the right to have ownership over their own sexual and reproductive health.”
Diana Nammi, Executive Director of IKWRO - Women's Rights Organisation said,
“At IKWRO - Women's Rights Organisation, we support women and girls, whose lives have been put at risk of so-called "honour" killing because of virginity testing and who have been severely traumatised and harmed by hymenoplasty. That's why we are working with Tonia to ensure that these invasive and degrading harmful practices, which are an abuse of human rights, and have no medical or other justification, are banned without delay. We have learned from our experiences in tackling the harmful practices of female genital mutilation and forced marriage, how vital it is to have clear legislation as a deterrent.”
Halaleh Taheri Founder & Executive Director MEWSo said, “After a 2 year-long campaign we welcome these new clauses to ban virginity tests and hymenoplasty. These abusive practices should have been stopped long ago. Now it is the responsibility of the community leaders and the Government to reshape misguided attitudes about women's virginity and sexual control”
Natasha Rattu, Executive Director of Karma Nirvana said, “We believe that every woman deserves the right to make any decision about her body – free from shame, stigma or discrimination, without pressure to subscribe to ‘gender-based societal norms’, and without fear of harm. This is why we are working in partnership with Tonia Antoniazzi MP to bring forward new legislation to end virginity testing and hymenoplasty to help break the ‘virginity myth’.”
Richard Holden MP, who tabled the New Clauses said, “I am delighted to have received the support of Tonia Antoniazzi MP for New Clause 1 & 2. The Health and Social Care Bill is the best opportunity to ban these oppressive practices once and for all. It is great to see cross-party work, alongside charities and health professionals to tackle violence against women and girls.”
Tonia Antoniazzi MP has called on the government to reward service personnel who took part in the evacuation of Afghanistan with medals.
More than 1,000 UK personnel took part in Operation Pitting, which airlifted 15,000 people fleeing oppression and persecution to safety as the country fell to the Taliban.
The mission was the largest of its kind since the Second World War and Labour has said that this ‘astonishing feat’ deserves formal recognition.
Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan has written to the Defence Secretary to urge him to honour service personnel with medals.
Under existing criteria, troops would not receive medals as the mission did not meet the 30-days continuous service for which they are awarded.
Labour has dismissed this as an ‘arbitrary timeframe’ and said that the criteria for medallic recognition needed to shift to reflect the changing nature of conflicts that our armed forces are involved in.
Tonia Antoniazzi MP said, “The role our armed forces played in the evacuation of Afghanistan was nothing short of exceptional. In just 14 days service personnel airlifted 15,000 people to safety in the largest operation of its kind since the Second World War.
“Awarding medals would not just be a fitting acknowledgement of the professionalism with which our service personnel undertook their dangerous mission, it would also go a long way to expressing the pride the nation feels in their service.
Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said, “Despite the government’s woeful mismanagement of the Afghanistan crisis, no one can deny that the bravery, compassion and integrity of our armed forces displayed during their dangerous mission deserves formal recognition.
“Ministers should swiftly move to honour the heroic efforts of our service personnel with medals. The only thing standing in the way of this is stuffy conventionalism.”
In the recent Queen’s Speech, the Government formally announced their plans to introduce mandatory Voter ID at the next election.
This policy requires voters to present photo ID to vote at polling stations in future elections.
Labour have called on the Conservatives to urgently rethink the policy, raising concerns that the policy will reverse decades of democratic progress and threaten to bar millions of people from exercising their democratic right to vote.
Since this policy was first announced in December 2016, the Government has received multiple warnings from charities, civil society figures and campaign groups that mandatory voter ID – if rolled out nationally - could pull up the drawbridge for millions of voters.
Tonia Antoniazzi MP for Gower, responding to the Government’s announcement of introducing Voter ID at elections, said:
“Voter ID is a total waste of taxpayers’ money. The policy is set to cost millions of pounds at every election.
“Voting is safe and secure in Britain. Ministers should be promoting confidence in our elections instead of spreading baseless scare stories which threaten our democracy.
“Millions of people lack photo ID in this country - in particular the elderly, low income and Black, Asian and ethnic minority voters. The Conservatives are reversing decades of democratic progress and urgently need to rethink this pointless policy.”
This week a vote will be brought in Parliament by opposition MPs to reverse the Government’s planned cut to Universal Credit.
At the start of the pandemic, the Government increased the standard allowance of Universal Credit by £20 per week which is set to be removed in five weeks’ time.
This cut of over £1,000 a year to millions of families is the biggest overnight cut to the social security system since World War II.
In Gower, 5300 families will be affected, including 3046 children.
The Government had originally planned to implement the cut in April 2021 but were forced to change course after Labour successfully won a vote in House of Commons in January.
Since then, the Party have continued to call for the Government to cancel this cut and are now bringing another vote on the matter on Wednesday 8 September 2021.
Labour have warned that the cut would damage the country’s economic recovery by taking money out of the economy that would have been spent with local businesses.
The cut has been opposed by prominent Conservatives, including Sir Iain Duncan Smith along with five of his successors as DWP Secretary of State. Dozens of charities have also voiced their support for the campaign, warning that proceeding with cut would push 500,000 more people into poverty.
Commenting on the announcement, Tonia Antoniazzi MP said “People think this cut will only impact the unemployed but 41% of people claiming Universal Credit in Gower are in work. It is shameful that the very workers who got us through this crisis are in the firing line for a £1000 cut to their income every year. Making the biggest ever overnight cut to social security would be morally and economically irresponsible.