By Claire Ellicott
Increasing numbers of Muslim brides are having taxpayer-funded ‘virginity repair’ operations before marriage. There were 116 hymen replacement operations carried out on the NHS between 2005 and 2009. The total for 2009 was 30, up 25 per cent from 24 in 2005.
The health service figures echo a trend reported by private clinics, which are seeing a huge surge in demand for the procedure from Muslim women paying up to 4000 pounds. One Harley Street clinic said that demand for its half-hour procedure had tripled in recent months.
Doctors say patients are under pressure from future husbands or relatives who insist that they should be virgins on their wedding night. Critics, including moderate Muslim groups, have condemned the trend as a sign of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the West.
During the hymenoplasty procedure – viewed by some as invasive and degrading – the hymen is stitched or reconstructed so that it will tear again and bleed on the woman’s wedding night. In some cases, the vaginal lining can be used to create a false hymen. A blood capsule can then be inserted into the lining to ensure realistic blood flow when the membrane is broken.
Consultant gynaecologist Dr Magdy Hend performs hymenoplasty under local anaesthetic at his Regency Clinic on Harley Street. He charges 1850 pounds for the half-hour procedure and says that most of his clients are Muslim women. He said: In the past, we would do one or two hymen reconstruction operations a week. Sometimes now, we get two or three women a day. Demand has tripled.
“Our Muslim clients worry about having had sex, and their fiancé and family knowing that they have been touched before. It is more cultural rather than religious. If the bride is not a virgin and does not bleed on the wedding night, it is a big shame on the family. There have been honour killings in extreme cases.”
“It is simple surgery that takes only half an hour. They can have it done at lunchtime and do not have to give their real names and addresses.” Imam Dr Taj Hargey, chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre in Oxford, called on the Muslim community to try to reverse the trend.
He said: “The situation is very common in the Middle East where there is a huge scandal that can lead to divorce or even honour killings if there are not bloodstained bed sheets after the wedding night. “It is very disappointing that Muslim women in this country feel they need to lead a double life, resorting to subterfuge surgery.
“That is not conducive to either their psychological or spiritual health and it is hypocrisy and double standards because Muslim men are doing as they please with women.”
There have been calls for a ban on NHS surgeons carrying out the operations for women wanting to marry as virgins. But a Department of Health spokesman insisted that hymen repair operations take place on the NHS only to ensure a patient’s physical or psychological health.
She said: “The NHS does not fund hymen repair operations for cultural reasons. All operations on the NHS are on the basis of clinical need. Operations to repair the hymen are only carried out exceptionally to secure physical or psychological health.” – Daily Mail