« on: June 13, 2008, 11:52:38 AM »
[...] In some cases, this morality may well be utter hypocrisy -- after all, many sexually active young women visit some back-street doctor for a bit of "corrective" surgery before marriage -- yet, for the majority of Turkish women losing her virginity means a lot.
Actually the state should pay for sexually active women to revert to virginity (or at least pay for an operation that will allow them to give the impression that they are virgins). France does, even though France is such a militantly secular nation that hijabs are banned in school, and even though the only women interested in "hymenoplasty," as the procedure is known, are Muslims for whose intended husbands their non-virginity will be a deal-breaker. Dr. Bernard Paniel is an obstetrician-gynecologist for France's public health system, and over many years has become the go-to guy for Muslim women who need to be "mended" before their wedding night, or face the wrath of their shamed, traditionally-minded grooms and the probable annulment of their marriage. Dr. Paniel "mends" about 30 broken hymens a year with a simple procedure that can be performed with a local anesthetic. He considers himself the "oil in the machine" that allows tradition to carry on, and is teaching the procedure, which he learned as a visiting doctor in a Tunisian hospital in the 1960s, to his younger colleagues. Dr. Paniel doesn't issue "virginity certificates" as some of his colleagues do, but perhaps just as controversially -- and resulting in the same effect -- he does provide his patients with vials of blood to produce on their wedding night. It is an understatement to observe that such (in our culture) medieval-era proofs of virginity -- blood on the wedding night sheets displayed to witnesses -- is utterly outmoded, a relic of pre-enlightened times in Judaism and Christianity. But the continuing, and consequential fixation with virginity amongst observant Muslim men is a reality, and the practice of hymenoplasty has now become a legal and political hot chestnut in France.
For in April a court in the northern French city of Lille annulled a marriage between a convert to Islam and a French woman of North African provenance on the grounds that her husband had discovered on their wedding night that she was not a virgin. It is expected that the ruling will encourage Muslim men with retrograde views of women's obligations to believe the state supports their perspective. This will escalate demands for premarital virginity inspections, which in turn will up the demand for hymenoplasties. The verdict was only made public two weeks ago, and it is causing a ferment of denunciation. Last week 150 members of the European Parliament denounced the ruling as an act of "serious regression." Those who stand to lose the most from the ruling are modern Muslim women. The Muslim women's rights group "Ni putes ni Soumises" (neither prostitutes nor submissive) claim surgeons performing the intervention have overstepped their professional bounds. Illustrating this well-taken point, gynecologist Jacques Milliez, head of the ethics committee of the London-based International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, admits that he routinely issues certificates attesting to the "virginity" of his patients, and says many other colleagues do as well, whether the women are sexually active or not. Sihem Habchi, the group's president, asks: "Does it really help? Doesn't it just bolster this tradition and this hypocrisy?" Dr. Milliez justifies his actions on the grounds that he is saving women from being ostracized by their communities. Nevertheless he is worried about the effects of the ruling and is organizing a "summit" around the procedure's ethics to be held in October.