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Asian women subjected to virginity tests on arrival in UK in 1970s

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Summary of story from The Guardian, May 13, 2011

A new study this week claims that more than 80 women emigrating from India and Pakistan to the UK in the  1970s were subjected to humiliating virginity tests on arrival at Heathrow Airport.

According to one Pakistani woman, who was a newlywed when she first arrived in the UK during the mid-1970s, only women travelling alone were taken aside for examining.

“It was embarassing, and it felt a little shameful,” she said. “You forget about things when you start a new life. But when I think about it now, it was a violation of my rights.”

At the time UK immigration law stipulated that women intending to marry within three months of getting engaged were allowed to enter the UK without a visa and join their fiances (and see WVoN story).

However, married women suspected of pretending to be engaged in order to avoid waiting for a visa were taken away from the queues at immigration and examined to make sure their virginity was not intact.

According to the two Australian academics who wrote the study and who have found evidence of at least 81 cases of virginity testing in confidential Home Office files, more incidents may have happened.

“We suspect that the documents extracted may well be the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr Marinella Marmo from Flinters University in Adelaide. “We fear that many cases occurred.”

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