Women seeking education jobs in Brazil’s most populous state should not be required to submit to gynaecological exams or prove their virginity, according to women’s rights advocates.
The education department of Sao Paulo state requires female prospective teachers to undergo a pap smear to prove they are free of a variety of cancers, or to present a doctor’s statement verifying they have not been sexually active.
Until recently, it also required women to have a colposcopy, a type of visual examination used to detect disease.
The department since at least 2012 has required the exams to show that candidates for long-term teaching positions are in good health. Critics, however, have decried it as an invasion of 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,” said Ana Paula de Oliveira Castro, a public defender of women’s issues in Sao Paulo.
Brazil’s national Special Secretariat for Women’s Rights said they were against any requirements that compromise the privacy of women.
“The woman has the right to choose whether to take an exam that will not affect her professional life,” its statement said.
Such policies violated constitutional protections of human dignity and the principle of equality and right to private life, it added.
The public management department for Sao Paulo said all tests ordered follow the standards and recommendation of the country’s health ministry for public servants as well as state law.
In a statement, it also said other states and federal agencies had similar requirements.
“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,” it said.
While the department requires other health exams, such as a mammography for women and a prostate test for men older than 40, the gynaecological exams are criticised as especially invasive.
The issue came to light this week after a news site interviewed a 27-year-old woman who said she was ashamed to ask a doctor for a note declaring she was still a virgin to escape the other tests.