Sex before marriage is not taboo any more with an increasing number of women being financially independent and easier mingling of the two sexes at workplace and social dos. And yet, the accepted norm of society that a girl should be a virgin at the time of her marriage, fuels the need for hymenoplasty, the restoration of virginity.Milind Wagh, plastic surgeon at Hiranandani Hospital. He performs at least two in a month. But he points out that it’s not a new trend. "Hymenoplasty has been refined in the last few years. But with awareness, more women are opting for it," he says. Dr Anil Shah, a gynaecologist with a 27-year-old practice, states, "I’ve been performing hymenoplasty for the past 20 years. The only difference is the materials and techniques used now are refined and it does not leave scars. Women were aware of it earlier but now the awareness has increased because of the media attention it gets."
He continues, “Many young girls in their 20s who are getting married opt for it to cover up their sexually active past and pre-marital affairs.” On an average, he performs 18 to 20 hymen construction surgeries a year. Dr Wagh adds, “A majority of the women who approach me are single. We don’t encourage older women, above 40, to go for it because it’s technically a more difficult process. Besdies, the success rate is higher with younger women because the remnants of the hymen are already there.”
But feminists criticise this growing trend, which they feel makes women subservient to men. “That’s true,” says Deepali, a woman in her early 30s. “On the one hand, women talk about equality of the sexes and on the other hand, they pamper the male ego by resorting to these things. I think a man should accept a woman for what she is rather than judge her by her past. After all, a woman never questions a man’s past.”
“Easier said than done,” refutes Roopa, a 21-year-old. “After all, Indian men do have double standards. A man who has many affairs is regarded as a stud while a woman in a similar situation will be branded a slut.” Besides, some men and women feel that undergoing hymenoplasty amounts to cheating the man involved.
Dr Wagh argues, “We don’t get into the moral aspects of it. But why should we deprive someone of its benefits if it helps them. For a young woman who’s been in a relationship before marriage but couldn’t marry the same man, hymen reconstruction becomes important. After all, she has to live in an Indian society with its double standards. I don’t play God or judge.” He sums it up with, “It’s not just a sexual encounter. The hymen also ruptures because of strenuous activities like cycling, gymnastics, horse riding and the use of tampons. So, where’s the question of cheating a man?”