Virginity and hymens have since time immemorial been highly valued especially in cultures and religions that forbid premarital sex.
For centuries, women in such societies have had to prove their virginity by bleeding during their first marital intercourse. Some cultures even go to the extent of asking women to show the blood-stained sheets to the husband’s family.
As such, women who are not virgins have had to go to great lengths to preserve their image and ensure nuptial bleeding. Without blood, a marriage can be annulled or the woman may go through some unfortunate honour killings.
During the Middle Ages, women had to go through a virginity test performed by midwives before they would be allowed to marry. Women who were not virgins had to bribe these midwives who would cut them and say that they were found to be virgins.
Historians say some women would also fill a small fish’s bladder with blood, then shove it into their vaginas before their wedding night.
Others also risked their health by placing ground up nutmeg in their vagina or using alum water since it had powerful astringent properties.
In contemporary African society, the belief is that cultures have been influenced by Western values such as the heightened respect of human rights, hence women should not necessarily be expected to protect their virginity.
But the reverse is the case, as more and more women who are not virgins are engaging in various tricks to prove they are.
Due to cultural and societal pressures, women are being forced to do the following to re-virginize for men in a period when women are unfortunately solely responsible for maintaining some kind of purity:
This is a procedure in which the hymen is surgically repaired. In countries like Tunisia, where women are coming from a conservative Muslim country, they have had to opt for this procedure to preserve their honour on their wedding night.
The operation takes around 30 minutes and costs from $550 to $960 with a less permanent version needing to be done within a week of the wedding, as the stitches hold.
Dr Faouzi Hajri, a Tunis-based gynaecologist said every April, before the summer wedding season, women who are not virgins come to him to restore their virginity.
Most of them, he said, are aged between 18 and 45, and come with their faces hidden behind a scarf and dark glasses.
They often come from working-class backgrounds, he said, adding that he treats about 100 women annually, including from neighbouring Libya and Algeria.
These alum stones in 2014 hit marketplaces of African countries like Cameroon and Nigeria, with the belief that it could restore a woman’s virginity.
In 2014, these stones were heavily found in Yaounde, costing around $2.54.
According to Ndangue Liliane Josiane Rose, a France24 Observer, women crushed these alum stones into powder and mix it with water.
“Sometimes, they add a bit of lemon juice or honey. They then use the concoction to clean their private parts, as the stone’s powder kills bacteria. But this mixture also provokes a momentary contraction of the vagina, which can give the appearance of virginity to a woman who has already had sexual relations,” she added.
Fake hymen kits
For as low as $29.95, African women are rushing for these kits online. Women who are not virgins insert this artificial hymen in their vagina to expand it. Once it expands, their vagina gets tighter and all new. During sexual intercourse, it will ooze out a liquid that appears like blood.
Other women are also taking artificial hymen pills, that dissolve into the vagina and create an artificial membrane simulating a fake hymen.
Women from Mombasa, Kenya have gone to the extent of displaying goat blood to fake virginity. Women for fear of being rejected, conspire with men to display this fake blood.
Vaginal soaps and tightening creams
Producers of these products claim that they tighten the vaginal walls and make it seem as if there has been a return of virginity. Despite warnings of their health risks, these products are selling like hotcakes in African countries like Kenya and Egypt.