Canada accuses doctor of crimes against humanity for virginity tests on women in Afghanistan

Canadian immigration authorities are trying to deport a doctor who performed “virginity tests” on women in Afghanistan, alleging her actions amounted to a crime against humanity.

Before crossing the border into Canada to make a refugee claim, Saida Ahmadi worked at a hospital in northern Afghanistan where her duties included virginity examinations.

Although Canadian officials said such tests have “no scientific validity,” in Afghanistan they can be used to prosecute girls and young women for the supposed moral crime of sex before marriage.

At hearings held in secrecy in Vancouver, the officials have accused Ahmadi of conducting such tests “at the request of the state” and testifying in court about the results, making her complicit in the oppression of Afghan women.

Virginity tests amount to torture and the persecution of women, the government officials argued, and aiding and abetting prosecutions amounted to a crime against humanity.

The Immigration and Refugee Board, however, ruled that while the tests were “part of the systematic oppression of women in Afghanistan,” they did not amount to a crime against humanity.

Similarly, the IRB’s Immigration Appeal Division subsequently ruled that Ahmadi did not make a significant contribution to “the systems in Afghanistan which oppress women.”

It noted she had said she believed she had the consent of women to conduct the tests and would not have done them if she had known they would be used in court.

But the Federal Court of Canada overturned the Appeal Division decision last month and sent the matter back for reconsideration.

The Canadian government has made women’s rights and gender equality a foreign policy priority and, in 2015, announced up to $30 million for programs to empower women and girls in Afghanistan.

Among the obstacles they face are rigid morality laws that allow them to be forcibly subjected to scientifically baseless physical examinations to question whether they are virgins.

Women and girls can be compelled to undergo the exams if they are accused of having sex outside marriage or if they have run away from home or even strayed outdoors unaccompanied.

The results can be used as evidence in court, resulting in imprisonment. A United Nations report called the tests “a serious violation of women’s rights to privacy, bodily integrity and dignity.”

Human rights groups want virginity tests banned, saying they have no scientific basis and are highly invasive, involving government-ordered vaginal and rectal examinations by medical teams.

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