By Nick Shafers
By Nick Shafers
Rabat – In a culture that expressly values female virginity, to not be a virgin at the time of marriage is grounds for divorce, shame, or even violence.
If the fact that a woman is not a virgin comes to light, then her marriage could be rendered void and she, as well as her family, would receive great shame and scrutiny from the community. Noticeably, the sexual history of a man is rarely questioned or considered in marriage, and in fact there is encouragement of adolescent sexual activity through a narrow, virility-defined notion of masculinity.
The hymen is a thin membrane that partially covers the opening of the vagina and usually remains intact before sexual intercourse, though it can also be ruptured by extreme physical activity, a blunt force strike, or even just a simple bike ride.
Usually— though not always —the Hymen releases some amount of blood when it is broken. In traditional Moroccan culture, a women’s “purity” is, therefore, established on the first night of intercourse when the sheets are stained with blood. If that doesn’t quite cut it, a woman can receive a “virginity certificate” from a gynecologist to further make the case for her decency and purity prior to a marriage. Or, if the woman is comfortable with a little illusion, she can opt to buy a fake hymen for an affordable amount all over Morocco.
Although some more liberal Moroccan bachelors report that the issue of virginity is not important when considering marriage, the problem of establishing virginity at marriage remains a huge concern to many women. At risk is their social value, marriage prospects, family honor, and life as a functioning woman in Moroccan society.
The answer? Just put it all back together.
Hymen reconstruction is a short, relatively simple procedure that repairs the membrane. According to Dr. Mansur, a physician at the Hospital De Maternité Universitaire Souissi, who started to perform the procedure in 2000, the process is easy: “in a half hour, they have fixed a big problem in their life. In 90% of cases the operation is a success,” according to the Spanish daily El Pais.
In many parts of world, discreet hymen reconstruction procedures are rising at an incredible rate. Clinics openly advertise in Europe and North America, and clinics clandestinely operate all over the world from India to Argentina.
And yet despite the demand, information about hymen procedures is relatively non-existent or inaccessible at most health clinics in Morocco. It remains heavily stigmatized, with many doctors speaking up about it only on conditions of anonymity. Furthermore, it lies in a legal grey area. Although voluntary abortion is prohibited under Moroccan law, hymen reconstruction falls into a discreet category, according to a gynecologist in Casablanca. In her own words, “we do not scream from rooftops.”
Despite— or perhaps because of —the lack of publicity and stigmatization of the procedure, the internet has become the go-to source for all things related to hymen reconstruction. With a couple of key strokes, one can find information about local clinics, doctors, prices, and even connect with other women that have gone through the procedure. There are even tiers of operations, with a temporary— around two weeks —fix costing around €200 and a long-term fix costing between €500 and €800.
Even the healthcare providers themselves refuse to discuss details in person, instead directing potential patients towards their computers. Kamal Iraqui, a plastic surgeon in Casablanca whose clinic is repeatedly mentioned on dozens of online forums, refused a request for information by the Spanish Newspaper El País and just said “it is all online.”
The issue of establishing virginity will not be leaving Moroccan bedrooms or health centers anytime soon. Hymen reconstruction is placed squarely on the forefront of the contemporary culture debate surrounding sexuality, feminism, marriage, and a whole range of other social issues.
While that debate rages, the internet represents a gateway for potential patients to connect with professionals, seek answers, and find community. A necessary thing, for as long as the Janusian standard of virginity between men and women remains unchanged then the need will still be there lurking just out of sight.