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Marjola Rukaj – WNN Features

Albanian woman in wedding dress

Woman in wedding dress, Tirana, Albania May 2011. Image: Mathias/Afroboof’s Photostream

(WNN/OBC) Tirana, ALBANIA: A secret crisis for women is happening in Albania. It has to do with a women’s health, identity, chastity and marriage. According to confirmations by doctors at gynaecological clinics in Albania’s capital city of Tirana, up to three young women each day are undergoing a surgical procedure in Tirana: a simple 20-minute gynaecological intervention to become virgins again.

Usually falling between the ages of 18 and 30, these women have decided to put their past sexual relations behind them physically as they decide to ‘present themselves new’ as virgins to the man they have chosen to marry.

Operations in secret

Banned by gynaecological clinic rules, most operations are performed in secret. While they are not banned or mentioned in any piece of the Albanian law, medical secrecy is the code doctors use in handling the procedure by those who request it.

According to Tirana based gynaecologists and sociologists, this has become a growing phenomenon in the past 20 years. Experts outline that much of the problem may be due to a high Albanian male emigration to Western Europe.

It is not hard to find someone to carry out the operation. “It is not legal, but we list it as a simple gynaecological check-up,” explains the gynaecologist who prefers to remain anonymous. Questioned as to whether this she performs such operations or not, this  gynaecologist answers: yes she does it because she has “no choice.”

The added value of virginity

“It is a very complex phenomenon that does not concern girls coming from rural areas only,” says Rubena Moisiu, head of the Kiço Gliozheni clinic in Tirana. “Anything but, in fact. The majority of operations take place in Tirana and the major urban centres of the Country,” added Moisiu.

Many Albanian men who emigrate look for wives in their home country. They often keep long-distance relationships, because of this female virginity is back in vogue in the region as a synonym of faithfulness and potential trust in the female partner, as well as a good omen for difficult distance relationships.

“It is not only due to the phenomenon of male emigration,” said a gynaecologist from Tirana who prefers to keep her identity hidden. “It is directly connected to the chauvinism rooted in Albanian society. Male sexual freedom is well accepted, while female sexual freedom becomes a disadvantage once women get married,” she continued.

Moral gynaecology

‘Until the 1950s in Albania women felt like they had to ‘hang out a blood-stained sheet’ after the first wedding night to prove virginity to a husband, relatives and neighbors. Today the pressure for women to be virgins in Albania society has returned. “Some women even come to the clinic accompanied by their partners, who want to verify their young wives’ virginity when they do not bleed during their first sexual act. This happens in 38% of cases,” the anonymous gynaecologist outlines.

“These are desperate girls whose future, whose happiness, depend on trivial things such as this. It is not their fault, it is the men’s fault: it is them [the men] who have this type of patriarchal and backward mentality,” she adds.

Less than 20 minutes under a local anaesthetic, a cost of 200 Euros ($265 USD) in a private operation at a public clinic, and women are ready to lose their virginity again. In private clinics, however, the costs are higher. According to gynaecologists, many women use the private medical settings for their surgery escaping any possibility of their surgery being included in informal statistics gathered and published by the Albanian media.

Of course as all operations go, this one also has side effects that should not go unmentioned. “With this operation women are prone to infections and inflammations of different kinds. During the sexual act, the haemorrhage can be greater than normal and, in extreme cases, it can lead to the woman’s death,” the gynaecologist explains.

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