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Myths encircling Virginity. Illustration by Naina Mishra

Oct 3, 2017: Many of us grew up holding that ‘hymen’ is a proof of virginity. In many societies, women are demanded to be virgins until marriage. The intact hymen confirms that a woman is a virgin. However, not many of us know that science has long back dodged hymen myths. Then why are we still holding back to such fallacious claims about female virginity? Lately, ‘The Virginity Fraud’ was discussed upon the world’s famous talk platform TEDx by Ellen Støkken Dahl (25) and Nina Dølvik Brochmann (29), medical students, sexual health workers and the authors of the book ‘The Wonder Down Under’ (science book about female genitals).

According to the speakers, the virginity dilemma revolves around two hymen myths- Hymen breaks and bleeds the first time women have vaginal sex, and if it does not bleed, it connotes that the girl wasn’t a virgin. The second myth tells that the hymen disappears after it breaks. The anatomical understanding of virginity have lived on for centuries and passed on to generations after generations. Girls are being edified not to lose virginity before marriage or preserve their virginities for their husbands. A typical wedding night is also the judgment night of the bride’s sexuality. Women are often being shamed and humiliated and sometimes killed for virginity.

Cultural Significance of Virginity & an In-Tact Hymen

You might have wondered that why is virginity so important? It is because virginity has cultural significance, according to the speaker, it has been used as a powerful tool to control women’s sexuality in every culture, religion, and history. In many cultures, virginity has been connected with special powers, such as the ability to medically cure people with ailments, while others profess losing virginity a taboo.

In Indonesia, women are systematically examined to enter military service. After the Egyptians uprising in 2011, a group of female protestors was forced to undergo virginity checks by their military. In Oslo, doctors examine the hymens of young girls to convince parents that their children are not ruined. In Turkey, girls are forced by parents or school authorities to take a virginity test. The girl is expelled from school upon the negative consequences of the test. In such grave circumstances, girls commit suicide rather than taking the test.

Fear of Surgical Revirgination:

The insecurity has been woven into the mindset of every girl to such an increasing extent that quick virginity fixes such as ‘surgical revirgination’ or ‘fake hymen’ came into the picture to ensure a proper bleeding. Girls fear of venturing into dance, sports or any physical activities that have the possibility of breaking the hymen. By doing so, young girls have already fallen for the false reasoning of society and curtailed their freedoms.

Busting Hymen Myths

“The Virgin Vulva”/Busting hymen myths. Wikimedia

The hymen is a rim of tissue at the outer opening of the vagina and has either a doughnut or half moon shape with a large central hole. Speaker explains that this is not even the exact shape of the hymen. It has myriads of forms, and therefore it’s hard to execute a virginity check. The hymen is elastic in form and can never disappear, however, it can only stretch to make space for sexual intercourse. Since hymen come in every shape and form, it is unlikely to know that a dent or a fold was because of previous damage or it’s just a normal anatomical variant.

The finding was discovered hundred years ago, in 1906, by the Norwegian Dr. Marie Jeancet, who examined a middle-aged sex worker and noted that her genitalia was implicative of a teenage virgin. Another study conducted on 36 pregnant teenagers reveals only two were found to have sexual intercourse. The revelation is itself a shred of evidence to debunk the fraud of virginity.

Reading women between legs do not tell anything about her sexual story. No magical seal disappears after sex, and half virgins can have sex without bleeding.

The speaker emphasized that just by removing these hymen myths will not make women’s life easier as it appears. Sexual oppression of women comes from something much deeper than the understanding of hymen. It comes from culture and religion in the world that tries to control women’s sexuality.

Also Read: Hindu Temple Kamakhya questions the Dominant Religious Legacies against Menstrual Blood


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A Jain monk offering ablution to Bahubali in Shravanabelagola

Atop the Vindhyagiri hills in Karnataka, a 57-foot-tall statue stands. This is the statue of Lord Gomateshwara, or Bahubali, as he is known to the local patrons. The surrounding area is filled with temples where each of the many Jain Tirthankaras sits.

Sharavanabelagola is named after a pond that is located at the foothills. 'Bel' in Kannada means white, and 'kola' means pond. This is a sacred water body to the activities of the temples. It is a tourist attraction and a pilgrim destination located 85 kilometres from Mysore, and 145 kilometres from the capital, Bangalore.

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By Siddhi Jain

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The author who named the book after her twin sons -- Puhor and Niyor -- is a parent who has seen and heard the tales of ridicule and discrimination suffered by many in India and beyond. She says the book is an artistic illustration for kids that details how different families can live and coexist. Whether it's children with two dads or two moms, children with a single dad or single mom, and even multiracial family units, Borthakur's book teaches love, understanding, and compassion towards unconventional families.

Beyond race, gender, color, and ethnicity which have formed the bases for discrimination since the beginning of time, this book aims to bring to light a largely ignored issue. For so long, single parents have been treated like a taboo without any attempt to understand their situations; no one really cares how or why one's marriage ended but just wants to treat single parents as villains simply for choosing happiness and loving their children.

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four children standing on dirt during daytime 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race and even differences in background. | Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

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Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

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Rajesh U Pandya, Managing Director, KAI India, gives easy and completely doable tips to follow at home:

* Refrain from harsh soaps: You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. Your soap can have a moisturizing element in it like aloe vera or shea butter. Ensure that you're washing your hands with normal water as hot water can make your hand's skin dry and scaly.

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