Belgium: Hymenoplasty

This story comes through a Spanish newspaper, which I attempted to translate below.


A recent message on a Muslim French language forum asked for help in hymen reconstruction, a life or death issue. A fellow poster jumped to the rescue, offering her own experience - a 300 euro operation, sympathetic gynecologist and a successful wedding night.

Posts such as these show the dilemma of Muslim girls in Europe - living between their family's cultural demands and their daily European-style life. They grow up just like Belgian kids, going to school and out shopping together, but once marriage looms on the horizon, they are in a completely different world.

Hymenoplasty is not covered by social security in Belgium, but reimbursement is possible if the doctor agrees to write that the operation was done due to postpartum complications, according to Marleen Temmerman, of the obstetrics department in Ghent University Hospital.

INAMI, which manages social security payments in Belgium, reimbursed 2,760 hymen reconstructions in 2004, almost double the number in 2000. However, most women who choose to do this operation prefer to stay anonymous and do not appear in official statistics.

Gynecologist Rock Goerdin says that these youth are like every other European youth, but when marriage comes up and their parents want them to have a virginity test, they look for a solution. He has been offering a 'solution for such kids for 2,100 euro, for the past 12 years. In his clinic in Genk he does about 30 hymen reconstructions a year. He estimates that 75% of his patients are 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants originally from Morocco or Turkey. In recent years demand has increased, thanks to the internet. He sees his work as 'social work', saving the youth from 'dishonor'.

Not all European doctors agree and some see such operations as an attack on sexual freedom and the woman's body without medical justification. In 2006 the French gynecologist council recommended that doctors do not do hymenoplasty and encourage their patients to oppose the tradition.

There is no data about how many hymenoplasties are done but local estimates suggest the phenomenon is increasing. Marleen Temmerman thinks Muslim women should end the hymen-myth, and points out some women are born without it. Twenty women have the operation every year in her clinic, but only in cases where the woman are despearate, under a lot of stress and have no other solution.

Mina Chebaa (38) emigrated from Morocco and now lives in Antwerp. Chebaa leads a women's emancipation association. She educates her three daughters to be good Muslims, but admits its not easy. Her eldest, 15, would like to do what other kids do, but she tells her: If you go to the disco, what will happen? Her daughter knows she can only go to women-parties and she's aware that one day she'll find the person she's going to marry, and when that day comes around, she'll be pure.

Many young European Muslims choose to marry Turkish and Moroccan women who have not been to Europe and been 'polluted' by the West.

Coskun Beyazgü, of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, says that employment discrimination that Muslim women suffer due to the veil worries him much more. He says the veil and virginity (the two Vs) have become the hallmarks of the community, which has to assert itself against attacks and lack of understanding. He does recognize that Muslim families have a conflict when bringing up their kids with the values of Islam, but he says it's not only a European issue. Kids see American TV shows and want to emulate what they see on TV. He says that men who only want to marry a virgin should be respected.

Both advocates and opponents of the operation want it to be brought out of the shadows, and for European countries to decide on their position in what they see as a growing social problem.

Source: El Pais (Spanish), Le Soir (French)

See also: Netherlands: High demand for "virgin pill", Netherlands: restoring virginity, Netherlands: Restoring virginity (2), European Muslim women go to extremes to be virgins (again)

1 comment:

John Rohan said...

Hymenoplasty is not covered by social security in Belgium, but reimbursement is possible if the doctor agrees to write that the operation was done due to postpartum complications

In this case, the doctors would have to outright lie to use that claim, since in order to be "postpartum" the woman would have to have a baby in the first place.