i read this news yesterday, about the annulment of a marriage in the south of france on the grounds that the bride was not, as she had claimed, a virgin. the reaction around the western world appears to be one of general outrage. but i'm not sure that is really helpful.
my first thought was for the couple themselves. the groom is obviously at the stage where he has no respect for his wife. the wife has been shamed and does not want to stay in the marriage. let's ignore the wider issues for the moment, and think of the consequences of the appeal of this decision.
this couple clearly do not want to be with each other, and since they both oppose the appeal, i would conclude that neither of them wants a divorce on their "record". but should the annulment be reversed, they would immediately file for divorce. i'm not sure what would have been gained. possibly only the wording of the initial ruling itself, which saw this as an act of misrepresentation, and therefore presumably a breach of contract. but i can't imagine that anyone seriously thinks this marriage should continue.
the wider issue of course is whether it is acceptable to expect virginity prior to marriage. if a person believes that sex outside of marriage is wrong, then it would follow that they would want a partner who holds the same belief, and and has practiced it. for example, i have a hindu friend whose husband told her he was a virgin when he married her. some time into the marriage, he came out with the truth. it was something that she found she couldn't forgive, and although it certainly wasn't the sole reason for their very messy divorce, it was a large factor in her mind.
it boils down to the fact that there is no way to prove whether or not a man in a virgin. this is a situation where we women are let down by our biology. since virginity can be proven for a woman (although not in all casees), we are left with gross discrimination that has wider consequences.
i've heard of customs where the bloodied sheet is passed around as a trophy on the wedding night, while the bride's father rejoices in this proof of his daughter's virginity. absolutely gross and apparently what was supposed to happen in this case. the result, the article i've linked to shows, is not pretty:
The case has also highlighted the plight of young Muslim women, many of whom go as far as to have their hymens repaired in surgery to evade the shame of a Ms Y. Fake virginity certificates and tricks like vials of spilled blood on the wedding night are also not uncommon.
as an aside, i would suggest that this kind of thing isn't limited to muslim women. but the lengths women are going to in order to falsely prove their chastity is appalling. many would be doing so because of fear of violence or even death. the misrepresentation of this bride may have been less for the sake of her husband, and more out of fear of her own family. maybe she had been hoping that her husband would be more understanding than her parents. who knows?
there really are only two options to this situation. either we push for these women to practice abstinence, or we push for everyone to accept that virginity should not be a condition for marriage. if we push for the former, not only is there the whole issue of women who don't bleed when they lose their virginity and women who have been sexually abused/raped; but there is still the issue of double standards because we should expect the same from men but can't hold them to it. not to mention, the faking of virginity and the abuse of women who haven't managed to fake it.
the latter is the option that has been pretty much adopted in the west. in time, no doubt it will be adopted in the east as well. i wonder why that thought doesn't fill me with joy. perhaps it's the loss of notions of innocence and purity. the succumbing to the instant gratification world, where everything has to be here and now. i can't seem to adequately explain it, but it seems to me that something important will be gone.
unfortunately, there is no middle ground between these two options. and in the meantime, there is this poor woman who has been thrust in the spotlight against her will, who wants her marriage annulled, and whose voice seems to be totally drowned out. against her will, she's to be made a martyr in the cause of liberty, fraternity and equality. i hope it's worth it.