Growing Numbers of Women Elect for Hymen Reconstruction

June 16, 2008 08:59 AM
by Anne Szustek
Women raised in conservative families within liberal societies have a conflict in body politics. Is hymenoplasty a mark of feminist regression or a mode of empowerment?

30-Second Summary

France’s young female Muslims, usually first- or second-generation descendants of immigrants, enjoy the greater freedoms permitted in modern European society. But when engaged to men of similar backgrounds, it is the mores of their heritage that take precedence.

Fearing harm from their families or in-laws, more women are signing on for hymen replacement surgery in order to produce the telltale virginal blood on their wedding nights.

A 23-year-old French woman of Moroccan descent told The New York Times as she was getting prepped for the procedure, “In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt.”

Namus,” often translated into English as “honor,” is an Islamic concept of family righteousness that hinges upon a woman’s propriety. First and foremost, women are to protect their own namus and in turn the esteem of the entire family. Any behavior deemed sexually “immoral”—from premarital sex to merely dressing provocatively--tarnishes the namus of a woman’s family.

Similar beliefs are endemic to other parts of the world and by adherents of other religions.

Cultural pressure is not the only reason women choose hymen restoration. Some women do it for appearance; others “do this as a Valentine’s present to their husbands,” said Dr. Marc Abecassis, who performs two to four hymenoplasty operations a week.

Dr. Andrew Mackintosh, who as of 2004 was performing “vaginal rejuvenation” surgeries out of his clinic in Auckland, New Zealand, said that “some women had it done … as an add-on to more functional operations.”

Headline Link: ‘In Europe, Debate Over Islam and Virginity’

Background: Namus, secular hymen restoration

Opinion & Analysis: A critical look at namus

Related Topics: ‘Female Circumcision Comes to America’


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