Virginity among unmarried Indian girls isn’t just a requisite, it is a norm. Which is why most people automatically assume that unmarried girls are virgins, and their “seal” should remain unbroken so that they can have a happy life post matrimony. Our society takes this sentiment very seriously. The seal called ‘hymen’ must remain intact among every unmarried girl, because it is the sign of her purity and “decent” upbringing. But sometimes, this glorification of virginity comes at the cost of women’s health.
- In India, health care professionals often refuse to perform Transvaginal Sonogram (TVS) on unmarried women.
- The reason is that a woman’s hymen is a sign of her purity in our society.
- A vaginal sonogram may rupture a woman’s intact hymen, thus revoking her virginal status.
- Women’s health in this country is such a low priority, that it takes a beating from a piece of tissue.
Huffington Post India reports that radiologists and technicians in our country often refuse to perform a Transvaginal Sonogram (TVS) on unmarried women, as their hymen could rupture during the procedure, thus revoking their virginal status. The report says that the resistance comes from gynaecologists themselves sometimes, and radiologists and technicians in other cases. These people deny women access to an important diagnostic procedure simply assuming that if the patient is an unmarried woman, she must be a virgin. No person wants the onus of damaging an unmarried girl’s hymen in our society.
Even if a girl is a virgin, it is amusing how wards and medical professionals still prioritise patriarchal beliefs over health care. Women’s health in this country is such a low priority, that it takes a beating from a piece of tissue. A girl’s virginity must be protected at all costs, but for what? So that her inexperienced husband doesn’t feel belittled or intimidated by her past sexual experience? So that he is sure the territory of her body hasn’t been conquered by any other man? Or to ensure that the heir born from her womb would only bear his legitimacy?
Women’s health in this country is such a low priority, that it takes a beating from a piece of tissue.
Where in the scheme of things is a woman’s well-being here? Who cares about what they want or what is good for them? We have collectively made virginity a parameter which all girls or potential brides must fit in, so that patriarchy can keep reducing the existence of a woman to her womb. Our function in this world is to nurture heirs in our bodies, but essentially of men and families we marry into, because how else would lineages prosper within caste, religion and hierarchy? But the problem isn’t just restricted to health care professionals and peers. Women themselves are uncomfortable having a transvaginal ultrasonogram.
An average virgin Indian woman is very conscious about her and her family’s dignity. Most women get basic or no sex education to begin with. They have very little awareness about their own reproductive organs, and thus it is very difficult for them to understand how the hymen is nothing but a tissue. And how procedures like transvaginal sonogram helpful in early detection of endometriosis, PCOS, and pregnancy, etc. Their prudishness, lack of knowledge and fear of a doomed future, in case they “lose” their virginity before marriage, often keep them from making well-informed choices.
There is no point in blaming anyone here, but our patriarchal mindset, which pins women’s identities to their wombs and glorifies virginity. Unless we smash that system, and bring up boys and girls to see hymen for what it is, a mere piece of tissue and nothing more, women will continue to suffer the consequences which stem from its glorification.
Picture Credit: babycentre.co.uk
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.