​Women Must Submit Pap Smears To Teach in São Paulo


Women’s rights advocates are protesting the São Paulo department of education’s standard of requiring either gynecological exams or proof of virginity from their female candidates. Damn straight they are.

The trend is part of a state health standard that requires all prospective teachers to undergo various examinations (men over 40 must undergo a prostate exam), but these tests required of women are intrusive and violate any semblance of privacy. Via AP:

The education department of Sao Paulo state requires female prospective teachers to undergo a pap smear in order 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.

There are so many things wrong with this I do not know where to begin. Of course , I am all for regular examinations and keeping women informed about their reproductive health. But if a woman does have cancer or HPV—does that mean she is less likely to get the job? It seems as though prospective teachers don’t have a chance at the job if they refuse to release that information, so that’s pretty fucking nuts.

Also, women who are not sexually active can certainly develop reproductive cancers, so the fact that proof of virginity suffices for the department indicates that this is more about women’s sexual choices than their health.

Sao Paolo’s public management department stated that the gynecological exams are protocol as per Brazil Health Ministry standards for public servants and state law, and are meant to “ensure, beyond technical ability, the physical and mental ability of candidates to keep their jobs for an average of 25 years.” Meanwhile, the Special Secretariat for Women’s Rights formally called bullshit on this practice in a statement:

“The woman has the right to choose whether to take an exam that will not affect her professional life,” said the statement. Such policies violate constitutional protections of human dignity and the principle of equality and right to private life, it said.

Hopefully the department will discontinue this ridiculous practice that appears of have only been in effect since 2012. Until then, I’ve come up with an alternate definition of The Feminine Mystique: when agents of the patriarchy whether individuals or organizations want to invade a woman’s privacy and control her reproductive health, but then incite a ragey shitstorm when a woman says something about tampons.

Image via Shutterstock.

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