"I have to do this." Moroccan to have hymen resewn
BY ALEXANDRA STEIGRAD, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE
[this story was originally published by Reuters on April 29, 2007, and ran in dozens of news outlets around the world, including Washingtonpost.com, Boston.com and NYTimes.com] to the companion lead story "Muslim women in France 'regain' virginity in clinics"
A 19-year-old Moroccan student in Paris, who asked to be called Amel, plans to have her hymen resewn before returning home this summer to marry a man who, according to local custom, expects her to be a virgin.
This is her story, as told on the condition her identity not be revealed.
"I dated a boy when I was 15 and I didn't even realize what had happened," she said, referring to her first and only sexual experience. "I was very young. After we had sex, he became very possessive. I couldn't stay with him any more.
"I met someone at the beginning of this year. He's the son of my parents' friends. We get along very well, but because he's a family friend, I can't tell him about my past. That's why I decided to get this surgery.
"I decided to get it done here because in Morocco, it's not official. It's just done in an office, not in a clinic. It's done around noon or 2 p.m., or at night, or when the secretary isn't there, and you don't know who is going to do it."
"It's known about just by word of mouth. In general, it's done in Casablanca and all the doctors do it."
"My friend's cousin has done it. She said (in Casablanca) they just use a string," Amel said -- instead of surgical sutures -- to close the hymen.
"It's very expensive to get it done here, but it's better.
"Only two of my friends know that I'm getting this done, but my other friends from Marrakesh will all end up doing this too, I am certain ...
"Sometimes I joke around with them and say: 'One day when we all meet someone, we're going be in trouble, what are we going to do?' They say: 'It's no mystery. You don't tell anyone and you have the operation.' It's simple ... and it's a bit strange, I know."
In Morocco, she said, a girl can be stopped and questioned for kissing or even holding hands with a boy in public.
"Can you imagine if you aren't a virgin?
"If I told my parents that I wasn't a virgin, they would call me a liar, and as a result, everything I have ever done would be a lie (to them)."
"I have to do this before I go home. If my mother ever found out about this, she would have a mental breakdown. I don't want to have this surgery, but I don't have any choice."
[This story was originally published in April 2007 for Immigration Here & There, a project for the Medill School of Journalism.]