The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) has issued a warning call over clinics offering hymen restoration procedures to girls living in so-called cultures of honour. The procedure is not medically justified and may subject the patient to health risks.
Hymen restoration, also referred to as “virginity repair”, rests on the notion that bride must enter marriage as a virgin and bleed on the wedding night as “proof” that she has been sexually untouched.
RFSU's newspaper Ottar has been particularly alarmed by the fact that a new such player, the NAB clinic, has opened its doors with a number of branches in Stockholm. A “virginity repair” costs over SEK 15,000 ($1,800). For the money, the clinic promises “small bleeding” on a couple's wedding night.
The Swedish Association for Obstetrics and Gynaecology said that hymen-reconstruction procedures are “not compatible with science and proven experience” and therefore “should not be performed”, and that “non-medical procedures in female genitalia are prohibited as such”.
Gynecologist Bita Eshraghi, an assistant physician at the Amel clinic for victims of female genital mutilation, yet another phenomenon unseen in Europe before mass immigration, condemned the hymen restoration procedures as “deeply unethical”. She argued that the doctors hereby help reproduce misogynistic norms among immigrants that counteract their integration into modern, 'enlightened' Western society.
Eshraghi suggested treating these surgeries in the same way as female genital mutilation and argued that healthcare professionals have a special responsibility to stand up for science and women's reproductive health.
“We wouldn't sew together the labia of a woman, as in a pharaonic genital mutilation, because it is something that is required before marriage in certain cultures, would we? Who should stand up for the rights of these women if not even we as healthcare professionals?” Eshraghi told Ottar.
The clinic defended its contentious operations by saying that it is about helping women living with a strong fear of retaliation or punishment from their family, relatives and clan, should they be exposed as not being virgins.
Eshraghi said that she understands that young girls afraid of honour killings may be desperate to seek out clinics of this kind, but argued that it is cynical to exploit their fears and make big money off of it.
“This is unacceptable. If licensed healthcare professionals offer unscientific and oppressive interventions for women, they have misused all trust and should lose their credentials,” Anna Starbrink of the Liberals Party said in a statement.
The practice of “virginity operations” has also been condemned by Gender Equality Minister Åsa Lindhagen, who said it should be stopped.
According to the NAB clinic, it performs about a dozen such operations a year. The exact extent of this phenomenon, however, is impossible to track down due to surrounding privacy. However, it has been estimated that up to 240,000 young Swedes live within the so-called honour culture, based on clan hierarchy, strict religious religious norms and personal oppression.