WORLD

France's virginity fracas

SUSAN MOHAMMAD June 16 2008
WORLD

France's virginity fracas

SUSAN MOHAMMAD June 16 2008

France's virginity fracas

WORLD

SUSAN MOHAMMAD

In France, a court

verdict to dissolve the marriage of a young Muslim couple after the bride lied about being a virgin has sparked a severe backlash from the media, government officials and feminist groups. Granted by a court in Lille in 2006, the annulment was made public last week after being published in a legal journal. It involved an unnamed engineer in his 30s and a nursing student in her 20s, with the groom wanting out of the marriage while the

wedding night party was still under way when he complained to guests that he couldn’t present them with a bloodied sheet as proof of his wife’s virginity (a tradition in some circles). He went to court the next day, arguing she deceived him regarding a vital part of the marriage, something to which she admitted, saying she had had sexual intercourse before the wedding.

Patrick Devedjian, leader of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, said using France’s civil code—which says a marriage can be annulled “if there was an error about the person, or about the essential qualities of the person”—for religious reasons was unacceptable. Justice Minister RachidaDati, herself a Muslim, initially defended the ruling but has since announced the government will appeal the decision. And Élisabeth Badinter, a prominent French feminist, said the annulment would send Muslim girls to hospitals to have their hymens restored.

That is clearly already happening—and not just in France. Dr. Robert Stubbs, a Toronto surgeon who has performed hymen-restoration surgery for two decades, does about 25 of these surgeries a year on mainly Middle Eastern (and not just Muslim) women, at a cost of about $3,000 each. His clients range from women who are “suicidal” after being raped to those wanting to ensure they pass the sheet test on their wedding night. M