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Georgian women seek virginity restoration

Tbilisi doctors report an increase in requests for hymenoplasty.

Girls in an Orthodox church read a prayer book during a midnight Easter mass in Tbilisi on April 26, 2008. (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters)

TBILISI, Georgia — Ia Sartania and Tamuna Bibineishvili are slender, 19-year-old blondes. They are gregarious university students who like popular music, rock climbing and spending time with friends. They are not devout churchgoers and consider themselves somewhat liberal. Both of them are single now but hope to wed within a few years.

However, the girls’ liberal facade cracks when they speak about premarital sex. They concede that they want to have sex before marriage but also worry it would invite public criticism. Being a virgin before marriage is important in Georgia, they say in unison.

“Guys want to have sex but don’t want to have it with a girl who is not a virgin,” Sartania said. “If you are not a virgin, you are not special anymore and you are considered to be promiscuous.”

Nikoloz Zazadze, 18, is fairly representative of Georgian boys: He likes partying, soccer and computer games but also considers himself traditional and would only consider marrying a virgin. Talking about premarital sex, he brings up a solution that can spare girls the ignominy of marrying without being virgin.

“If you want to have sex with one guy and then marry another one … it’s OK. After all, there is a surgery for restoring virginity,” he said.

Many in Georgia are reluctant to talk about the increasingly common surgery that Zazadze was referring to, known as hymen restoration or hymenoplasty. A quick fix, the surgery re-connects the hymen of a woman and makes sure that blood is spilled on the wedding night sheets. It is performed at many clinics in Tbilisi by both gynecologists and surgeons. There are no official statistics on the number of such surgeries performed, but the four doctors interviewed for this story said they perform it two to three times per week, as do their colleagues.

One gynecologist, who asked that her name not be used for fear of reprisal, said that usually at state institutions the surgery is administered under a different name, which makes it untraceable.

Only Dr. Iva Kuzanov agreed to talk openly about performing the surgery. He has more than 20 years of experience as a surgeon and is also a professor at the Medical Institute in Tbilisi. When he opened a private clinic for plastic surgery in 2004 the surgery was not offered because there was no demand for it. However, after he mentioned the possibility on a television talk show, more and more women requested hymen restoration. Now he performs five to seven such operations per month.