‘Hymenoplasty’ surgery to re-connect the hymen is said to be on the increase among young Arab women because they fear being ostracised by their communities if they are discovered to have been sexually active.
The social pressure not to have sex prior to marriage is so great that some women have taken their own lives, while others have been murdered. ‘Sonia’, a young woman born in France and studying in an art college in Paris, says, “I thought of suicide after my first sexual relationship because I couldn’t see any other solution”.
Dr Marc Abecassis has a clinic in Paris were he performs the ‘hymenoplasty’ procedure at least two to three times a week. He says the operation takes about 30 minutes under a local anaesthetic, costs about 2,000 euro and carries very little medical risk.
Explaining why doctors all over the world perform the operation, he says, “She can be in danger because sometimes it’s a matter of traditions and family. I believe we as doctors have no right to decide for her or judge her”.
‘Sonia’ eventually went to Dr Abecassis to have the surgery performed, and she says she will never reveal her secret to anyone. ‘Nada’, another young woman who grew up in Lebanon, fell in love and had a sexual relationship before marriage says, “I was scared my family would find out, especially since they didn’t approve of my relationship. I was terrified they might kill me”.
When ‘Nada’s’ boyfriend of seven years left her to marry another woman she attempted suicide. ‘Nada’, who is now 40, underwent hymenoplasty surgery after she heard about it six years ago. Married now with two children she says, “I am ready to hide it until death. Only God will know about it.”
Arab writer and social commentator, Sana Al Khayat says that this problem has to do with the notion of controlling women. She says, “If she’s a virgin, she doesn’t have any way of comparing [her husband to other men]”.
Source: BBC 24 April 2010