Teacher training, an affinity for working with children, and…proof of virginity?
Those are the requirements for female teachers seeking employment with the education department in Brazil’s most populous state.
Aspiring educators in São Paulo state must either submit a statement from a doctor stating that they have not been sexually active or undergo a pap smear, The Associated Press reported recently.
The rationale behind the requirement, which has reportedly been in effect for a couple of years but came to light recently when a young teacher complained, is to recruit teachers who are healthy and would not require significant amounts of time off for medical reasons. But critics, like Brazil’s Special Secretariat for Women's Rights, told the AP the requirements are a violation of privacy and called for them to be eliminated.
What if a prospective teacher does have cancer? Should that really prevent her from pursuing a teaching career? Women’s rights activists in the country say no, that a female teacher’s health is her business, not her employer’s.
As Jezebel points out, “[W]omen 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.”
It’s not the first time officials in Brazil have sparked backlash over controversial tests. Last year, women applying for police jobs in Bahia, Brazil, were required to undergo testing to prove their hymens were not torn. That requirement was removed after a public outcry.
Officials in São Paulo seem to be holding their ground for the moment, but if women’s rights activists have any say, the São Paulo education department’s testing rules could be headed for the same fate.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.