New Delhi, March 23

Pandering to conservative India's continuing preference for a "virgin bride", an increasing number of women are going under the knife for hymen reconstruction surgeries to keep intact the notion of the blushing, untouched spouse for their husbands-to-be.

"I didn't care about it but I come from a conservative family. I couldn't tell my parents that I am not a virgin. My parents have arranged my marriage. So I chose to get this surgery done," a 25-year-old, who has recently got the surgery done, told IANS.

The rising trend of hymen reconstruction comes even as discussions and debates continue about women's empowerment not just in the home but also in politics with the upper house passing the historic women's reservation bill giving 33 percent reservation to women in legislatures, leaving only the Lok Sabha to pass it.

Hymen repair or re-virgination refers to a cosmetic surgery that restores the hymen. Hymenoplasty is a simple procedure that repairs a torn hymen.

According to Anup Dhir, cosmetologist at the Apollo Hospital, "there has been a steady rise in the demand for hymenoplasty surgery over the past few years".

"There has been an increase of 20-30 percent in these surgeries every year. The majority of women who come for this surgery are in the age group 20 and 30," Dhir told IANS.

Agreed Anita Kant, head of obstetrics at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences: "Hymen reconstruction surgery has become an emerging trend over the past three to four years."

The main reason, experts say, is the prevalent conservative mindset.

"In a conservative society like ours, many women feel that hymen reconstruction is a prerequisite to a good beginning of married life. Also they feel no matter how modern their partners are, the male mindset remains conservative in this regard and therefore the importance of being a virgin before marriage," Kant told IANS.

However, while premarital sex is one of the reasons for rupture of the hymen, it is not the only reason.

"The reason cited by many women who come for hymenoplasty surgery is premarital sex. However, sex is not the only reason why the hymen can break. Sports activities, rigorous physical exercise and dance can also result in the tear," said Biraj Nathani, senior plastic surgeon at Max Health Care hospital at Saket.

The surgery in itself takes about an hour and there are no side effects, said doctors.

The cost of hymenoplasty depends on the set up - whether it's done in a public or private hospital. In public hospitals, the cost ranges from Rs.15,000 to Rs.20,000, while in private hospitals the charges could be from Rs.50,000 to Rs.70,000.

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