Egyptian Lawmakers Want to Ban Fake Hymen

By: Joseph Freeman - AP Writer
By: Joseph Freeman - AP Writer

Conservative Egyptian lawmakers have called for a
ban on imports of a Chinese-made kit meant to help women fake their
virginity and one scholar has even called for the "exile" of
anyone who imports or uses it.

The Artificial Virginity Hymen kit, distributed by the Chinese
company Gigimo, costs about $30. It is intended to help newly
married women fool their husbands into believing they are virgins -
culturally important in a conservative Middle East where sex before
marriage is considered by many to be illicit. The product leaks a
blood-like substance when inserted and broken.

Gigimo advertises shipping to every Arab country. But the
company did not answer e-mails and phone calls seeking comment on
whether it had orders from Egypt or other parts of the Middle East.

The fracas started when a reporter from Radio Netherlands
broadcast an Arabic translation of the Chinese advertisement of the
product. That set off fears of conservative parliament members that
Egyptian women might start ordering the kits.

Sheik Sayed Askar, a member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood who is
on the parliamentary committee on religious affairs, said the kit
will make it easier for Egyptian women to give in to temptation. He
demanded the government take responsibility for fighting the
product to uphold Egyptian and Arab values.

"It will be a mark of shame on the ruling party if it allowed
this product to enter the market," he said in a notice posted on
the Brotherhood's parliament Web site on Sept. 15.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest political opposition
group, holds 88 of Egypt's 454 parliament seats.

Prominent Egyptian religious scholar Abdel Moati Bayoumi said
anyone who imports the artificial hymen should be punished.

"This product encourages illicit sexual relations. Islamic
culture forbids these relations except within the confines of
marriage," Bayoumi said. "I think this should absolutely not be
allowed to be exported because it brings more harm than benefits.
Whoever does it (imports it) should be punished."

In a country and a region where pre-marital sex is so taboo it
can even lead to a woman's murder, the debate over the
virginity-faking kit has revived Egypt's constant struggle to
reconcile modern mores with more traditional beliefs - namely, that
a woman is not a virgin unless she bleeds after the first time.

"Bleeding is not the only signal that yes, she's a virgin,"
said Heba Kotb, an observant Muslim woman who hosts a sex talk show
on TV in which she fields calls from all over the Middle East.

Kotb noted that a medical procedure that reattaches a broken
hymen by stitching is illegal in Egypt and can cost hundreds of
dollars - prohibitively expensive for the poor. But many women
still secretly seek it out in fear of punishment for pre-marital
sex.

Such punishment could include slayings at the hands of
relatives, a practice more commonly referred to as honor killings
and common in the more conservative tribal areas of the Middle
East.

The product is also causing a buzz on Egyptian blogs and news
sites.

"If this thing enters Egypt, the country is going to go to
waste. God protect us," commented a reader on the Web site of
Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabie.

Marwa Rakha, an author and blogger who writes about dating
issues, sees the product as a tool of empowerment for women in a
macho Arab culture that restricts women's sexual urges but turns a
blind eye to men galavanting.

"It sticks it in the face of every male hypocrite," she said.


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