But for the patient, a year-old French student of Moroccan descent from Montpellier, the minute procedure represented the key to a new life: the illusion of virginity. Like an increasing number of Muslim women in Europe, she had a hymenoplasty, a restoration of her hymen, the vaginal membrane that normally breaks in the first act of intercourse. Gynecologists say that in the past few years, more Muslim women are seeking certificates of virginity to provide proof to others. That in turn has created a demand among cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacements, which, if done properly, they say, will not be detected and will produce tell-tale vaginal bleeding on the wedding night. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; medical tourism packages are available to countries like Tunisia where it is less expensive.
Wearing a veil and gown, she will be every inch the fairytale virgin bride and as befits her strict Muslim religion, after the ceremony, she will hand her blooded wedding-night sheets to her in-laws as proof of her virginity. But far from being the traditional untouched bride that many Muslim families demand, she is a modern-day university graduate who has smoked, drunk, made love to - and even lived with - a previous English boyfriend. To disguise the fact that she has had sex, she has paid for painful surgery to "restore" her virginity. It is a drastic and costly measure but as she takes her husband's hand in marriage, she knows it is one which may - quite literally - save her life. The horror and outrage that would ensue if it was discovered she had already slept with a man would be so damning that her own strictly religious relatives might kill her rather than face public shame.
This is not an ode to a Pakistani male. Nor an elegy. Nor even an apology. It is a statement of fact hopefully.
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