In Iran, virginity before marriage is very important for many young women and their families. Thus, sometimes men may request a certificate of virginity, a practice that according to the World Health Organization is against human rights.
But during the last year, the campaign against this practice is adding more and more followers. “You tricked me into marrying me. You are not a virgin. If they had known the truth, no one would have married you.”
Mary’s husband had said this after having sex for the first time. He tried to convince her that he had never had intercourse before, despite there being no blood after penetration. But he did not believe her and demanded that she get a certificate of virginity.
This claim is not uncommon in Iran. After getting engaged, many women go to the doctor to certify that they “have not lost their virginity.” Although WHO was clear in emphasizing that virginity has no scientific basis.
The certificate given to Mary said that her hymen was of elastic type, which meant that it could not bleed after intercourse. “He hurt my pride. I didn’t do anything wrong, but he kept insulting me. I couldn’t stand it, so I tried to kill myself with an overdose of pills,” he says.
But after being taken to the hospital, she managed to survive. “I will never forget those hard days. I lost 20 kilos.”
finish the exercise
The story of Maryam is the reality of many women in Iran. Being a virgin before marriage is important to many expect and their families. It is a value that is embedded in the most conservative spheres of culture.
But recently things have started to change. Women and men across the country have started a campaign to abolish the virginity certificate.
Last November, an online petition reached 25,000 signatures in less than a month. It was the first time thousands of people in Iran had openly rejected virginity tests.
“It’s a violation of privacy and it’s outrageous,” Neda said. She had sex for the first time when she was 17 and a student in Tehran. “I panicked. I was horrified to know what would happen when my family found out.”
So he decided to rebuild his hymen. Technically, the procedure is not illegal, but it has dangerous social implications, which is why there are hospitals that refuse to do it. So Neda had to find a private clinic, do it in secret and pay huge sums of money.
“I spent all my savings, I sold my computer, my cell phone, my jewelry,” she recalls. In addition, he had to sign a document in which he took full responsibility in case something went wrong. A midwife was in charge of performing the surgical procedure. It took about 40 minutes. But it took several weeks for Neda to recover. “He was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t move my legs,” he recalled.
He hid everything from his parents. “I was feeling very lonely. But I thought that the fear they would find out would help me cope with the pain.” In the end, that didn’t help all that much. A year later she met someone she wanted to marry. They had a close relationship, but she didn’t bleed. The process, which in itself is highly questionable, failed.
“My boyfriend accused me of trying to trick her into marrying him. He told me I was a liar and left me.”
Although the WHO pointed out that virginity tests are unethical and lack scientific support, they are still performed in various countries such as Indonesia, Iraq and Turkey. The Iranian medical organization says it only conducts such tests in specific circumstances, such as court cases and allegations of rape.
However, most internship applications come from couples who are planning to get married. Thereafter the women often accompany their mothers to private clinics. A gynecologist or midwife then performs the exam and issues a certificate. This includes the woman’s full name, her father’s name, her identity document and sometimes a photograph.
The certificate describes the condition of the hymen and includes the phrase: “This woman appears to be a virgin.”
In most conservative families, the document is signed by two witnesses, usually the mothers. Dr. Fariba issued certificates for years. She believes that this is a degrading practice, but at the same time believes that she is helping many women.
“They are under a lot of pressure from their families. Sometimes I lie to help my partner. If they have already had sex and want to get married, I will tell the families that this woman is a virgin,” he says. But for many men, Marrying a virgin woman seems original.
“If a woman loses her virginity before she gets married, I don’t believe she is trustworthy. She may leave her husband for another man,” says Ali, a 34-year-old electrician who lives in Shiraz. Although he admits that he had relationships with 10 women. “I couldn’t resist,” he says.
Ali acknowledges that Iranian society has double standards, but points out that there is no reason to break with traditions. ,Social norms accept that men have more freedom than women“, he points out.
Ali’s views are shared by many others, particularly in rural and more conservative areas of Iran. For this reason, and despite the mobilization against these types of exams, some see it as a possibility that a law will be approved that prohibits them.
hope in the future
After four years of trying to take her own life and live with an abusive husband, Maryam is finally able to get a divorce through the courts. She was single only a few weeks ago. “It would be very difficult to trust a man again. I can’t see myself getting married in the near future.”
Along with thousands of other women, she also signed one of the growing online petitions to end the issuance of virginity certificates. Although she doesn’t expect anything to change anytime soon, maybe not even in her lifetime, she believes that one day women will get more rights in their country.
“I am sure it will happen one day. I hope no girl in the future will have to go through the phase that I have gone through.,