Big Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet heads today’s edition with a two-page story about surgical hymen (re-)construction. The news is that a number of tax-funded Stockholm clinics offer the procedure for a fee of about $40 (SEK 260), and ample space is also devoted to an explanation of why the whole thing is controversial. (Patriarchy, honour-based society, control of female sexuality, I don’t need to explain it to you, Dear Reader.)
This recalls the issue whether public health care should offer male circumcision. As I have argued before, all genital mutilation of minors should of course be illegal — but as long as male infant circumcision remains legal, it should be part of public healthcare to avoid a proliferation of amateur circumcisionists.
Hymen construction is a silly pointless procedure in demand among certain immigrant groups with traditional customs. It is far more controversial in Sweden than male circumcision, despite the facts that it a) is performed on sexually mature young women instead of small children, b) does not involve the removal of any tissue. The difference is of course that male-circumcising minorities have been part of Swedish society for centuries and have reached positions of the highest influence, while the groups that mess with female genitalia have only been arriving for a few decades and are still low on the ladder.
Contrary to widespread popular belief, the hymen is not like the cap of a bottle. The vaginal tract always has an opening from birth, or your menstrual discharge would have nowhere to go before you started having sex. The hymen, rather, is a ring-shaped swelling of the vaginal lining, and not always easily discernable at all. Women do not invariably bleed after their first penetration.
The newspaper story cites several cases where minority girls have sought hymen reconstruction after having been raped by men of their own ethnic group. Both the rapists and the victims have understood that it would be unthinkable to report the crime as this would damage the honour of the girl’s family. In the worst cases, this honour would only be repaired by the murder or suicide of the girl!
So, should public health care offer hymen reconstruction? In my opinion, yes, because hymen obsessives pay taxes too. But the procedure should only be available to people over the age of 18, who have the right to vote and must be assumed to make their own decisions about their fannies. The latter assumption is of course highly debatable in situations where a young woman runs the risk of being murdered by her uncles and cousins.