Above: the Baghdad suburbs.
Doctors in Iraq are beginning to take issue with court-ordered "virginity testing," a practice generally done the day after a marriage in which the woman is checked for an intact hymen—but only if her husband was suspicious. Or, um, impotent (sending the wife to be checked is often a cover-up for the man's sexual dysfunction), according to Dr. Munjid Al Rezali, the director of the Medical Legal Institute, in which the tests are performed. Blood is always expected at the moment of virginity loss, although a hymen can break while engaged number of other non-sexual activities, and if there's no blood, the woman is pegged as sexually active and a shame to her family — and, as we're well aware of by now, women continue to be the victim of "honor killings" by male family members.
So, where do these tests go down?
An average of several virginity tests are performed per day at the Medical Legal Institute (MLI) in Baghdad, in a small windowless room with blue-tiled walls and a black table with leg stirrups at one end. Other equipment includes a white scope on a wheeled stand and a bright white light, also on wheels, near the end of the table.
Three doctors (at least one female) take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes per woman, and should the results return that prove the woman was lying, there is no law that protects her. She and her family are also expected to compensate the groom for any gifts, money or other costly tokens of their relationship.
The MLI doctors, who describe themselves as impartial but sympathetic to the womens' plight (re: the test outcomes, one doctor said that "most of them [are] with the woman, not against the woman, but it is by itself... shaming") assert that general sex education in Iraq is subpar. On the bright side, they counter, before this practice, sometimes when there was no blood on the sheets after the married couple had sex, the husband would simply kill the wife immediately. Whereas now he takes it to the court and the MLI. So there's that.
The Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Iraqi Women's Association are all doing their best to eliminate this practice as the status quo, claiming it's both inhuman and ineffective.