Virginity, at least when it comes to the female of the species, is one of the most critical ethical melting points of societies in which females are burdened with a symbolic honor that denies their own control over their own bodies. The Virgin Mary in Christian theology remains a virgin, since the heavenly father of Jesus had no earthly form with which to impregnate her. Much is made in the media today about honor killings in Mediterranean societies, and in areas where more conservative forms of Islam merge with patriarchal ideology, like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since the self righteous males who guard their sisters hymens but frequently dally with the hymens of other men’s sisters or daughters are not likely to go feminist and vote pro-choice, women must either remain strict virgins (and hope that they are not one of those women who are born with perforated hymens quite naturally) or find some chicken blood. But now the Japanese and Chinese have a more sanitary solution: a kit that allows a woman to insert an artificial hymen in only five minutes.

Where do you find such a product? It is widely sold in the Middle East, but those in America have only to click on to find a Japanese kit available for $29.90 (or “suggest a price”). As for its benefits, the site suggests:

No more worry about losing your virginity. With this product, you can have your first night back anytime. Insert this artificial hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrate, it will ooze out a liquid that look like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable. Its easy to use, clinically proven non-toxic to human and has no side effects, no pain to use and no allergic reaction.

As reported on the site Feminists for Choice, “Sheik Sayed Askar, a member of Egypt’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, made the claim that an Artificial Hymen in his country would make it easier for Egyptian women to give into the temptations of sex. On top of that, religious leaders in the country are demanding that women purchasing the product be legally punished.”

So is such a tool possibly halâl? Well, it certainly is cheap. In Syria it could be bought for a mere 15 dollars. Recently the government of Jordan has warned that use of the artificial hymen has health consequences, as reported on Khabirni. If not dangerous to health, it can ruin a marriage, as a recent case in Saudi Arabia shows.

The fatâwâ are hitting cyberspace fast and furious, mostly furious at a commodity which is said to encourage premarital and extramarital sex. For example, here is one from Egypt: ,

أفتى عضو مجمع البحوث الإسلامية بمصر وأبرز علماء الأزهر الدكتور عبد المعطي بيومي بتطبيق حد الحرابة على كل من يقوم باستيراد غشاء البكارة الصيني الذي ييسر للفتاة التي فقدت عذريتها إرجاع هذه العذرية بسهولة، باعتباره مفسداً في الأرض، لأنه بهذه الطريقة قد يساعد على نشر الرذيلة في المجتمع.

The same argument has been made in Morocco. I was told that Sheikh Qaradawi, bless his heart, has a different spin, suggesting that it might be permissible in a situation where one needs to avoid an honor killing, but I have yet to confirm this on his official site. If so, it is a brave and pragmatic judgment. On top of the astounding ignorance that assumes all women are born with intact and bleedable hymens (they are not), many women suffer from abuse for doing nothing at all. The assumption behind the proliferation of anti-hymen-kit pronouncements is the ease with which women are blamed by male scholars, as though the men who sleep with them before marriage bear no responsibility. Perhaps the Chinese should invent an artificial hymen tracking device that will record the DNA of the male and send word to his mother or sisters of his infidelity with a cc to the local imam.

Daniel Martin Varisco