Today, it is almost impossible – even among staunch, front-pew church goers – to find weddings where the bride and groom are virgins.
Years ago, an American bride aged 22 sparked controversy online, when during her wedding reception, she presented her daddy with a signed document from her gynecologist proving that she had remained a virgin until marriage. In African traditions, a woman couldn’t have sex until she got married. Pre-marital sex was frowned upon, and having a child out of wedlock was taboo. That was then.
Today, it is almost impossible – even among staunch, front-pew church goers – to find weddings where the bride and groom are virgins. The ‘pure’ white bridal gown nowadays comes in hues of cream, red, muddy brown, or even midnight black. Other brides avoid the white gown for African prints. Virginity is no longer valued and cherished. Young couples have indeed defied traditions. Sex out of wedlock, either out of peer group pressure, is no longer a big deal.
Does this spell doom for the once-prized virginity?
Dr Alex Mureithi who runs a private clinic in the city says medically, the hymen (a membrane that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening) has no usefulness in a woman’s body.
“There is no scientific research that spells out the importance of the hymen. Others think it protects the vagina from infection, but it is simply a vestigial tissue. Just like the appendix, it serves no purpose. It might have in the earlier stages of evolution played a role, but it’s also not very clear what role it could have played from such depths.”
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Despite having no role in a woman’s body, the hymen has huge religious and moral value in society.
Sheikh Juma Ngao, a prominent Muslim says sex out of wedlock has become a norm, contrary to the teachings of the Quran and the Bible.
“Ninety nine per cent of Muslims and Christians don’t follow their religion’s stand on sex before marriage. In Islam, a young man and woman shouldn’t have sex unless they are married. If they have sex, and there are four male witnesses or eight female witnesses, according to the Sharia Laws, the young man and woman should be whipped 100 lashes,” says Sheikh Ngao, adding that religious weddings have become a mockery of the teachings of the holy books.
“A woman will wear a white gown and stand next to her husband, waiting to be joined in matrimony by an imam or priest, yet they have been married for years and have children. Isn’t that akin to mocking God?” poses the cleric.
But according to Faith Atsango, a counselling psychologist, a majority of youth tend to be radicalised about sex and “they see waiting till the wedding night is too outdated, so they do the complete opposite, without any regard to what the society expects. It is sort of a rebellion against expected norms.”
She also points out the contradictory nature of the premium the society has placed on a woman’s and a man’s virginity. “A virgin woman means she is pure, while a virgin man is like a boy, who needs to undergo several sessions of training before he becomes a man.”