A recent revelation by satirical cartoonist Atena Farghadani that she was forced to undergo a "virginity and pregnancy test", prior to her trial for a charge of "illegitimate sexual relations" for shaking hands with her lawyer, has added another stain on Iran’s shameful record of violence against women, Amnesty International said.
In a note written by Atena Farghadani leaked from prison, which has been seen by Amnesty International, she says the judicial authorities took her to a medical centre outside the prison on 12 August 2015 and forced her to submit to the tests, purportedly with the purpose of investigating the charge against her.
"It is shocking that on top of imposing a ludicrous charge on Atena Farghadani for the ‘crime’ of shaking hands with her lawyer, the Iranian authorities have forced her to undergo a ‘virginity and pregnancy test’," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
Coerced "virginity testing" is internationally recognized as a form of violence and discrimination against women and girls. It also violates the absolute prohibition of torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law, including article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran has ratified.
Atena Farghadani is a prisoner of conscience. She has committed no internationally recognizable crime, and has been punished simply for exercizing her rights to freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
Held in prison since January 2015, Atena Farghadani was sentenced in June 2015 to 12 years and nine month in prison for her peaceful activism, including meeting with families of political prisoners, and for drawing a satirical cartoon depicting legislators as monkeys, cows, and other animals. The cartoon was in protest at a bill that seeks to criminalize voluntary sterilization and restrict access to contraception and family planning services.
Adapted from Amnesty International website
Photo: Justice for Iran