London: Newly discovered documents indicate
that the British government concealed how often it
administered so-called "virginity tests" to female immigrants
from India hoping to enter the country in the 1970s on
The documents, unearthed by legal researchers
Marinella Marmo and Evan Smith from Australia`s Flinders
University, showed that the tests meant to prove that women
coming into Britain to marry were virgins had been
administered more than 80 times.
Although the tests first drew condemnation in the late
1970s, the extent to which the practise had taken place was
not clear until now. The British government had previously
acknowledged only two cases, both done at Heathrow Airport.
"We were shocked to see not one case, but many," Marmo
The government acknowledged that the documents were
valid, but a spokesman for the UK Border Agency declined to
address the larger number of cases reported by Marmo and
"These practises occurred 30 years ago and were
clearly wrong," he said. The official, speaking on condition
of anonymity in line with government policy, said Britain`s
policies now protect the rights of immigrants.
Marmo and Smith`s research began in 2008 and was first
published today in the Guardian newspaper.
The results show that 73 women underwent the tests in
New Delhi and nine in Bombay at British embassies between 1976
and 1979. The alleged reason was to weed out bogus immigration
The researchers said the discrepancy between their
findings and the official tally makes it clear that the
government, fearful of damaging its international reputation,
had deliberately concealed the scale of the practice.
The documents "are quite revealing about the extent of
abuse within the immigration system at the time," Smith said.
"There were a lot of machinations to deny or limit what was
made public about these cases, which lends credence to the
idea that they knew it was something bad, that it was a gross
violation of human rights."
The files, letters and exchanges some typed, some
handwritten, often with scribbles in the margins contained
telling references to a broader agenda to limit immigration,
Marmo said, pointing to one note that read: "Let us not
pretend we`re not discriminating."
The researchers believe the government could issue a
more assertive apology.
"We cannot change the past, but at least we can set
the record straight and we can look each other in the face and
tell the truth," Marmo said. "Say it happened. Say you`re