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Before vows, Pak girls stitch up the past

Tuesday, 21 October 2008 - 3:16am IST

Hymenoplasty or restoration of the hymen has turned out to be the latest fad in among a section of people in Pakistan.

Virginity restoration procedures gain popularity in a country where premarital sex is absolutely taboo

ISLAMABAD: Hymenoplasty or restoration of the hymen has turned out to be the latest fad in among a section of people in Pakistan. Although the practice has been going on in hushed whispers for quite some time, blatant advertisements are now being published in local newspapers, chalked on busy market places and web links splashed on the internet.

Hopepk.com is one such website that does not disclose its location, yet has given out a mobile number so that anyone who is interested can get an appointment. Many such clinics are working across major cities in Pakistan and charges vary depending on the area. Says one plastic surgeon Dr Saiful Khalid, “Hymenoplasty is a kind of plastic surgery in which the hymen is restored back in the ‘virginal’ position. This kind of plastic surgery, although quite common now, cannot be discussed in the open due to social taboos and cultural norms. But yes, we do get a lot of cases from all kinds of backgrounds.”

Presence of a hymen is crucial even today in Pakistan since many women accused of adultery have been subjected to honour killings. Not only that, many Pakistani brides have been strangled, slaughtered and divorced on their wedding night for not bearing the ‘proof’ of chastity and loyalty.

As a matter of fact, a woman who does not bleed on her wedding night will often either be tortured by her husband or returned to her family. Although doctors stress that a sports injury or some vaginal disease can also result in a torn hymen, most Pakistani men still do not accept a woman who has had pre-marital sex. Thus, the business of hymenoplasty flourishes.

Dr. Sajida recalls one such case: “There was this girl from the frontier province. They are very orthodox and she had come to Lahore with her mother especially for this purpose. They would insist the surgery be carried out with their veils over their faces. “
According to Dr Sajida, hymenoplasty started off in Karachi and shifted to Islamabad and finally came to Lahore. “You can even see a huge wall painted in the Icchhra market in Lahore with the word ‘Re-Virgin’, which means nothing to the illiterate class but a lot to the literate ones. Thus, the advertisements are planted in coded messages.” Some of the virginity restoration clinics operating in Lahore as fertility centres are Hope Centre, Naseem Clinic and Noor Medical Centre.

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