The shame of Afghanistan’s virginity tests

“My life has been turned upside down. I used to have a good life. But now everything has changed for me.”

Neda sits on a threadbare Afghan rug. A shy 18 year old from Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, she adjusts her headscarf as she recalls the day doctors forcibly subjected her to an intimate and degrading “virginity test”.

It was 2015 and she had just finished a late-night theatre rehearsal. The walk home would have taken nearly two hours. So, together with another girl, she accepted a lift from two male friends.

Coming from a working-class background, Neda says her weekly pocket money didn’t cover her everyday costs. Her mother often asks her to go without lunch if she has to pay for a ride back home.

“Even to this day, I sometimes blame myself for being in this situation… for getting in a car with men. I blame myself for bringing shame upon my family. But I also know that was my only way of getting home”.