An increasing number of brides-to-be in Tunisia are paying for surgery to restore their “lost virginity.”
It is reportedly not uncommon to hear of young Tunisian women being divorced shortly after marrying because their husbands suspected they were not virgins.
Due to this pressure to remain virgins until marriage, many young women are opting for hymenoplasty, a surgical procedure that claims to reconstruct the hymen, according to the BBC.
In Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, a number of private medical practices have sprung up to cater for the growing demand for hymenoplasty.
Some of the young women who were interviewed about their decision to have the procedure done said it was extremely important to conceal their sexual history from their future husband.
One of them, 28-year-old Yasmine, said she had to opt for the procedure to guarantee a happy home.
“I had an affair once with a man,” she says. “At that time, I couldn’t imagine how huge the pressure was in my society and what the consequences could be.
“So now I am afraid. If I reveal this to my fiancé, I’m quite sure our wedding will be cancelled.”
Yasmine will be getting married in two months’ time, and she worries that she may someday inadvertently betray herself in a conversation with her husband.
“I consider this to be deception, and I’m really worried,” she says.
Hymenoplasty, is a short procedure lasting only about 30 minutes. It is performed by trained gynecologists who charge about $400 (£310) for each operation.
Dr. Rachid [not his real name], a gynecologist, says he performs about two hymenoplasties per week.
The vast majority of his patients turn to the procedure to avoid bringing shame to themselves, their families, and their relatives.
Medical experts say a woman’s hymen can also be torn for other reasons not related to sex, including sporting activities and the use of tampons. In rare cases, it may even be absent at birth.
Nevertheless, Dr. Rachid says some local doctors regard virginity as sacred and refuse to perform the restorative operation.
After independence from French colonial rule in 1956, Tunisia pursued the path of a modern secular state. There has, however, been a growing wave of ultra-conservative Islamist ideology following the 2011 uprising that swept through the country and much of North Africa.
In addition, there is a provision in Tunisian law allowing a man to divorce his wife if he discovers she is not a virgin.
Many have described the law that expects young women to remain virgins until they are married as hypocrisy and an affront to the rights of women.
“It really annoys me. This is a manifestation of a male-dominated society covered up in some religious principles. I mean it when I say it’s male dominance, and I’ll continue to wage an all-out war against it.” Dr. Rachid says.
Radhouam, a young Tunisian man studying at a public university, added, “For me, this is pure hypocrisy.
“Young men can freely have sex before marriage, so why do we blame young girls when they do so?”