Surge in 'virginity repair' operations on NHS as increasing number of women hide evidence of sex before marriage
An increasing number of women are having controversial 'virginity repair' operations on the NHS before they get married.
In the last five years, 116 hymen repair operations have been undertaken at the tax payer's expense. Thousands more women are believed to be paying up to £4,000 to have the surgery done privately each year. NHS surgeons carried out 30 of the procedures in 2009 - up 20 per cent from 2005. In the private sector one Harley Street doctor claimed to carry out up to three of the operations a day. The specialist who offers a hymenoplasty for £1,850, said demand had tripled in recent years.
The operation, which is available on the NHS 'for physical and psychological' reasons, takes just half an hour. Private practitioners have claimed a surge in demand in the operation has been driven largely by Muslim women desperate to preserve the illusion that they have not had sex before their wedding night. The procedure - viewed by some as invasive and degrading - sees the hymen stitched or reconstructed so that it will tear and bleed again on the woman's wedding night. Many women give false names and addresses and some are even buying chastity certificates to 'prove' that they are virgins.
Consultant gynaecologist Dr Magdy Hend performs hymenoplasty under local anaesthetic at his Regency Clinic on London's Harley Street. 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 wanting it. Demand has tripled. 'The majority of our clients are Muslim women. They worry about having had sex and their fiance and family knowing that they have been touched before. 'It is more cultural rather religious. If the bride is not a virgin and does not bleed on the wedding night, it is a big shame on the family. 'The woman fears that the husband will walk out, divorce or humiliate her all her life. 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. They are paying up to £4,000 at other clinics.' Consultant surgeon Ash Mosahebi, who performs the procedure at various London clinics, said he had noticed a recent rise in demand of around 40 per cent. He said: 'There is a clash of cultures where Muslim women are leading westernised lifestyles but then wanting to conform to the traditional lifestyle of remaining a virgin.
'As it becomes more widely known that operations are available, they are getting to hear about them from friends and increasingly considering it.' Critics, including moderate Muslim groups, have condemned the trend as a sign of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the West.
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 rise in the number of these operations in Britain is a very disturbing trend. '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. 'The Muslim community should be confronting the issue rather than pretending it is not happening. I shall be speaking out about it in my next sermon.'
The latest official NHS statistics were compiled by the NHS Information Centre for health and social care. 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 spokeswoman insisted that hymen repair operations only take place on the NHS 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.'