Riverside Newsletter Volume 17 - December
Controversial ‘virginity tests’ sold by UK clinics
Women are being offered controversial “virginity tests” at British medical clinics, an investigation by BBC Newsbeat and 100 Women has found.
The intrusive tests are considered a violation of human rights by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations, which want to see them banned.
Critics say they are unscientific, cannot prove whether someone is a virgin and can be a form of abuse. The tests involve a vaginal examination to check if the hymen is intact. The BBC investigation found a number of private clinics advertising “virginity repair” which, when contacted, then also offered the so-called virginity test for between £150 and £300.
Data from NHS England shows 69 hymen-repair procedures have been carried out in the past five years.
Priya Manota manages the helpline for Karma Nirvana.
“We have received calls from girls who are concerned about this. It might be that they are worried their families have found out perhaps they’ve been in a relationship or they’re not a virgin. It might be family are pressuring them to go through with tests and they are concerned about the outcome of that.
“Triggers for honour-based abuse and forced marriage are being in a relationship, choosing your own partner and being in an intimate or sexual relationship. We know at the charity many victims in extreme cases have been killed. For other victims it might be they are disowned by family.”
Virginity testing is known to be practiced in at least 20 countries, according to WHO, which says there is no evidence that it can prove whether a woman or girl has had sex or not. This is because the hymen can tear for many reasons, including tampon use and exercise.
Last year, US rapper T.I. sparked outrage after admitting during a podcast he takes his daughter for a test every year to check her hymen is still intact.
Evidence suggests there are 5 steps you can take to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Trying these things could help you feel more positive and able to get the most out of life.
- Connect with other people
Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing. They can help you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth, give you an opportunity to share positive experiences, provide emotional support and allow you to support others. There are lots of things you could try to help build stronger and closer relationships:
- if possible, take time each day to be with your family, for example, try arranging a fixed time to eat dinner together
- arrange a day out with friends you have not seen for a while
- try switching off the TV to talk or play a game with your children, friends or family
- have lunch with a colleague
- visit a friend or family member who needs support or company
- volunteer at a local school, hospital or community group. Volunteer – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- make the most of technology to stay in touch with friends and family. Video-chat apps like Skype and FaceTime are useful, especially if you live far apart
- do not rely on technology or social media alone to build relationships. It’s easy to get into the habit of only ever texting, messaging or emailing people
- Be physically active
Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. Evidence also shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing by helping you to set goals or challenges and achieve them, causing chemical changes in your brain which can help to positively change your mood
- use the attached link Get fit for free – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- if you have a disability or long-term health condition, find out about Get active with a disability – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- start running with couch to 5K Couch to 5K – The Complete 5K Beginner Training Plan — (runnersblueprint.com)
- do not feel that you have to spend hours in a gym. It’s best to find activities you enjoy and make them a part of your life
- Learn new skills
Research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental wellbeing by:
boosting self-confidence and raising self esteem, helping you to build a sense of purpose,
helping you to connect with others. Even if you feel like you do not have enough time, or you may not need to learn new things, there are lots of different ways to bring learning into your life. Some of the things you could try include:
- try learning to cook something new. Find out about healthy eating and cooking tips
- try taking on a new responsibility at work, such as mentoring a junior staff member or improving your presentation skills
- work on a DIY project, such as fixing a broken bike, garden gate or something bigger. There are lots of free video tutorials online
- consider signing up for a course at a local college. You could try learning a new language or a practical skill such as plumbing
- try new hobbies that challenge you, such as writing a blog, taking up a new sport or learning to paint
- Feel that you have to do things that don’t interest you.
- Give to others
Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by, creating positive feelings and a sense of reward, giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth, helping you connect with other people, It could be small acts of kindness towards other people, or larger ones like volunteering in your local community.
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you.
Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
A new counter terrorism safeguarding website has been launched by Counter Terrorism Policing, offering advice, guidance and support to people concerned about relatives being radicalised. It comes as police warn the Covid lockdown is creating a “perfect storm” for vulnerable young people to be radicalised online.
Parents, friends and families can now get specialist support to stop their loved ones being radicalised and drawn into extreme groups. The new website Act Early, provides dedicated safeguarding pages and advice line from the specialists at Counter Terrorism Policing.The website has been produced because only 2 per cent of referrals to the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, Prevent, come from family and friends.
Police say they are the best placed people to step in at an early stage of radicalisation.
We’ve seen specific instances of various extremist groups targeting specifically young people. In the North East this has included far right groups, but there are also al Qaeda and Daesh groups that are similarly targeting young people. The website itself is a raft of information, all sorts of different support services, such as the signs to look out for
In the 18 months leading up to 30 June this year, 17 children were arrested in relation to terrorism offences.
Some were as young as 14 years old, while nearly all will have been radicalised entirely online. In the same time period, more than 1,500 children under the age of 15 were helped by the Prevent programme to choose a different path, away from hatred and violence.
Experts in extremist groups say the current lockdown situation is enabling recruiters to access young people in order to radicalise them.
We’re all feeling a sense of isolation and what we’re seeking when we are isolated is to find communities and one of the communities that people could find online are radical right communities or extremist communities and young people are particularly vulnerable to this and so I think that’s why it’s being described as a ‘perfect storm’ and it feels like a perfect storm for many people.
One Teesside based group impacted by the pandemic is Media Cultured.
Run by Amjid Khazir from Middlesbrough, the organisation delivers education and training to young people, businesses and teachers to help counter racism and extremism.
We’re currently delivering workshops remotely to smaller numbers, but it has a real impact on the interactivity of the lessons, so if there are views there that we have to challenge and have a group discussion, with Covid and the pandemic and not being on site, has made that a really difficult process for us now.