According to the Associated Press, women in Sao Paulo, Brazil must now complete a gynecological examination or prove their virginity if they want to work in the state’s education field.
The purpose of pap smears or doctors’ statements corroborating women’s virginity is allegedly to ensure that prospective teachers do not have certain types of cancer. Previously, women were also forced to have a colposcopy, a procedure to examine [the] cervix, vagina, and vulva for signs of disease. But the new requirement sparked outrage after a 27-year-old woman told a news site about the shame she felt having to ask a doctor to confirm her virginity, in order to avoid further testing.
An official statement from the state’s public management department explained that testing is done in compliance with Brazil’s Health Ministry policies and policy recommendations. “The health inspections are intended to ensure, beyond technical ability, the physical and mental ability of candidates to keep their jobs for an average of 25 years,” the statement read.
But women’s rights activists argue that the measures are invasive and infringe upon women’s privacy.
“It violates women’s rights. It’s very intimate information that she has the right to keep. It’s absurd to continue with these demands,” public defender of women’s rights Ana Paula de Oliveira Castro claimed. Though men over the age of 40 are required to undergo a prostate exam, women of all ages are forced to go through the procedure that many advocates have deemed extremely intrusive.
The country’s Special Secretariat for Women’s Rights also released a statement condemning the tests and dubbing them an affront to human dignity. “The woman has the right to choose whether to take an exam that will not affect her professional life,” the statement said. Moreover, the bar association of Sao Paulo has said that they consider the policy unconstitutional.
In addition to the intrusive job requirement in Sao Paulo, women throughout Brazil have limited reproductive health options overall. In 2013, the Human Rights Watch’s World Report outlined the country’s strict abortion laws. Women can only have abortions if their health is jeopardized by a pregnancy, the pregnancy is the result of rape, or “the fetus has a congenital brain disorder.”