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Restoring virtue for Rs 20,000

More and more women are queuing up for the surgical procedure that will restore their hymens.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 13:57 IST

A scientific triumph or a regressive procedure that further compromises the position of women in conservative India?

Either way, surgeons in Gujarat are set to cash in on the demand for hymenoplasty, the term for medical restoration of a woman's technical virginity.

More and more women are queuing up for the surgical procedure that will restore their hymens and keep their virtue intact in the eyes of their future in-laws and husbands.

Hymenoplasty had clandestinely begun eight years ago in this city. Of late, however, such surgeries are on the rise.

Young Gujarati girls turn up with the sole intention of "keeping their future in-laws under the illusion that they are virgins", said cosmetic surgeon Hemant Saraiya in Ahmedabad.

"Two out of the seven girls who came for hymenoplasty to me said they were sex workers who wanted to get married. One of them didn't want her in-laws to know that she was not a virgin. "The other didn't want her future husband to find out that she had had a premarital affair," said Saraiya.

"They had to pay just Rs 20,000 for the restoration of the hymen," he added.

He described it as a simple surgery that was not too painful for patients. "I operated the first patient eight years ago, but five patients came during the last couple of years," he said.

Plastic surgeon Bijal Parikh said that people were very inquisitive about the surgery although only two patients actually came to him for hymenoplasty.

Astonishingly, it is not just young women getting married who are going in for the procedure.

A middle-aged woman from abroad approached Parikh for the surgery because she wanted to gift the regained virginity to her husband on their 20th wedding anniversary.

"I get queries from Indians in the US and Britain. If the practice becomes a trend, we will strike gold," Parikh said.

"Moreover, the surgery is much cheaper in India. Also, we have five-star hospitals in the city that are economical compared to any of India's metro city hospitals."

While Parikh and Saraiya look at the business aspect, there are many who alarmed at what it portends.

Sociologist Gaurang Jani, for instance, holds medical professionals responsible for "not educating people" in order to profit monetarily from such a gender-biased operation.

"Instead of educating society by spreading information about sex, doctors are making money out of such backward mindsets.

"If hymenoplasty becomes a trend, it will provide our patriarchal set-up with a more conducive environment to retain old mindsets. Only the doctors will prosper."

Jani, however, put aside the question on the future of hymenoplasty by saying, "This is a transitory phase. After a couple of decades, if a boy claims that he has married a virgin, people will laugh at him."

First Published: Apr 14, 2006 13:57 IST