Surgery is the route, writes Tommy Makoe

You cannot stay young forever, but you can stay a virgin for as long as you want, even if you have dropped your knickers before.

You cannot stay young forever, but you can stay a virgin for as long as you want, even if you have dropped your knickers before.

Medical surgery in the rich industrialised countries affords women who have lost their virginity the chance to regain it.

The surgery, which is not popular but could possibly boom in South Africa, has enabled women in France, Japan, the US and other rich countries to straddle the thin line between virginity and impurity.

They can hop from one side of the fence to the other without aborting their chances of marriage. Ever more young women are resorting to surgery to regain their virginity after losing it, reports Reuters.

This is made possible by hymenoplasty, which is a surgical operation to reconstruct the hymen.

The hymen is a fold of skin that closes the entrance to the vagina of a virgin.

It is the part that causes bleeding after it breaks during sexual intercourse. But medical experts say anything that interferes with the hymen can cause it to break.

Hymenoplasty reconstructs the hymen after breaking and, voila, you are a virgin again because during the next sexual session the hymen will break again.

Marc Abecassis, a doctor who owns a medical practice in France, says: "No exact figures on how many operations are done exist, but I do three a week. Demand has been rising in the past three to four years.

"Many of my patients are caught between two worlds. They have had sex before and are expected to be virgins at marriage according to their customs and traditions, which cause enormous family pressure."

But hymenoplasty comes at a price. The 30-minute operation costs between R15000 and R28000 overseas and women who have not given birth are advised not to try it.

In France the operation is free of charge for women who have been raped.

The operation is said to be popular among women between the ages of 18 and 45 who are forced to undergo virginity testing before marriage. Others who undergo the procedure are said to be doing so to enhance sexual pleasure.

But Annah Lehapa, a doctor, says the procedure is not popular in South Africa.

"I can remember only one such operation since I began practicing medicine and it was conducted on a foreigner.

"Why should one lose one's virginity and want to regain it. What is the significance of that?" Lehapa asked.

But for South African girls who are sexually active and are pressured to undergo virginity testing, hymenoplasty could make it easy to dupe virginity testing.

According to research conducted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Suzanne Lerclec-Madlala, girls in KwaZulu-Natal have resorted to dangerous measures in an attempt to dupe traditional virginity testing.

Her research has discovered that girls in rural KwaZulu-Natal have resorted to "physical traumas associated with anal sex" to avoid vaginal penetration in order to pass virginity testing.

But Nomagugu Ngobese, who is pro-virginity testing, said in an interview: "Girls have been on record as saying they love virginity testing because it gives them confidence to know they are pure."

Naturally, hymenoplasty is not expected to be welcomed by traditionalists, but politicians and women-rights activists in South Africa have criticised virginity testing as another means to reinforce imbalances based on gender.

They say women are expected to remain virgins before marriage, though men are not.

"This practice reinforces the belief that women are the custodians of virtue," says Carrie Shelver, a spokesman for People Opposed to Women Abuse.

Though traditionalists support it, virginity testing has become so unpopular that the South African parliament has passed a bill to ban it.

The Children Protection Bill contains a clause that is aimed at banning virginity testing.