Context Although the Turkish Medical Association has deemed "virginity examinations"
a form of gender-based violence, women in Turkey are often subjected to such
examinations by forensic physicians for both legal and social reasons. Little
is known about these physicians' role and attitudes in this practice.
Objectives To assess forensic physicians' experiences and attitudes regarding virginity
examinations in Turkey and suggest potential solutions to the problems identified.
Design Cross-sectional self-administered survey.
Setting Surveys were completed during the Forensic Science Congress held in
Kusadasi in April 1998 as well as in urban academic and medical practice settings
between April and October 1998.
Participants Of 158 physicians who practice, are formally trained in, or are in training
for forensic medicine, 118 completed the survey (response rate, 74.7%).
Main Outcome Measures Frequency and circumstances of conducting virginity examinations, opinions
regarding beneficial and adverse consequences of these examinations, and recommendations
for changing the practice, as measured by a 100-item questionnaire.
Results Overall, survey respondents reported conducting 5901 examinations in
the previous 12 months; 4045 were conducted because of alleged sexual assault
and 1856 for social reasons. Although 68% of forensic physicians indicated
that they believed virginity examinations are inappropriate in the absence
of an allegation of sexual assault, 45% had conducted examinations for social
reasons. The majority of the respondents (93%) agreed that the examinations
are psychologically traumatic for the patient. In addition, more than half
(58%) reported that at least 50% of patients undergo examinations against
Conclusions Nearly half of forensic physicians in Turkey conduct virginity examinations
for social reasons despite beliefs that such examinations are inappropriate,
traumatic to the patient, and often performed against the patient's will.
Physicians' participation in such practices is inconsistent with principles
of bioethics and international human rights.