Turkish health minister sent on vacation after uproar over virginity
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey’s health minister has reportedly been ordered to take a vacation after setting off a public uproar by authorizing virginity tests for high school nursing students suspected of having sex.
Nationalist Action Party leader Devlet Bahceli told Health Minister Osman Durmus he had damaged the party and ordered him to take a vacation, according to reports Thursday in the Turkish newspaper Radikal and the English-language Turkish News.
”Go wherever you want, but go,” Radikal quoted Bahceli as telling Durmus.
Women’s groups, nurses and teachers were outraged this week when Durmus introduced a regulation that would expel students at government-run nursing high schools for having sex and subject girls who were suspected of having sex to gynecological examinations to check if they were virgins.
Girls who did not pass the test would be expelled from school and barred from studying at other government institutions.
Virginity is highly valued in mainly Muslim Turkey. Forced virginity tests on girls suspected of having had premarital sex were common until the practice was banned in 1999 after five girls took rat poison rather than submit to the test.
The Health Ministry confirmed Thursday that Durmus was on vacation but denied he left on Bahceli’s orders. The Nationalist Action Party would not comment on the reports.
The Nationalists are part of the governing coalition. The party suffered considerable damage this week after newspapers accused it of being the main obstacle to an economic recovery program that is backed by the International Monetary Fund. A Cabinet minister from the party, Enis Oksuz, was forced to resign Tuesday after the lira slid to its lowest-ever level against the dollar.
Durmus was the subject of controversy in 1999 when he refused foreign blood donations sent to help thousands injured in a massive earthquake. He also put a stop to a popular campaign to gather blood donations for a leukemia victim, saying the blood was being sent to foreign labs and could be used by foreigners to ”unravel the genetic coding of Turks.”
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