The experience and responses of Swedish health professionals to patients requesting virginity restoration (hymen repair)

Reprod Health Matters. 2010 May;18(35):38-46. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(10)35498-X.

Abstract

An important determinant of family honour in many cultures is the chastity of women, with much importance attributed to virginity until marriage. The traditional proof of virginity is bleeding from the ruptured hymen, which has led some women to request genital surgery to "restore" virginity, or hymen repair. The aim of this study was to investigate whether Swedish health care providers have had experience of patients requesting this surgery. Questionnaires were sent to 1,086 gynaecologists, midwives, youth welfare and social officers, and school nurses and doctors in four Swedish cities. Of the 507 who returned the questionnaire, 271 had seen patients seeking virginity-related care. Of these, 14 had turned the patients away; 221 had made 429 referrals, mostly to a welfare officer or a gynaecologist; and 26 had referred patients to a plastic surgeon. Nine gynaecologists had carried out such surgery themselves. Swedish authorities have to date focused on this issue primarily from a social and legal perspective. No guidelines exist on how health professionals should deal with requests for surgery to restore virginity. Further research is needed on how best to meet the needs of this group of patients in a multi-ethnic society and how to address requests for hymen repair. Without this, medical practitioners and counsellors will remain uncertain and ambivalent, and a variety of approaches will persist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Hymen / surgery*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Refusal to Treat / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Abstinence / ethnology
  • Sexual Abstinence / physiology*
  • Surgery, Plastic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden