Dutch doctors have pledged to stop carrying out operations to ‘restore’ women’s hymens, as one of a package of measures to tackle what ministers call ‘damaging practices’ affecting mainly women and girls.
There were 120 hymen repair operations at Dutch clinics in 2018, broadcaster NOS reported, most of which took place in a commercial clinic and cost up to €1,100.
The operation, which involves a few stitches under local anasthetic, is undergone by girls whose culture expects them to bleed the first time they have sex on their wedding night. Doctors are particularly opposed to the operation because there is technically nothing to ‘repair’.
‘Family pressure on girls should not be a way to make money,’ health minister Hugo de Jonge said. If the practice is not stopped on a voluntary basis, the Netherlands will bring in legislation to make it illegal, De Jonge said in a briefing to MPs.
Jan van Lith, chairman of the Dutch association of obstetrics and gynaecology, told NOS that the safety of the woman concerned was paramount.
‘We agree with the minister that you should not carry out this operation,’ he said. ‘But we have to talk to the women, give them proper information and tell them about alternatives.’
In addition, the Netherlands will no longer recognise child marriages which have been performed abroad, even if both partners are now adults.
‘If your parents marry you off at a young age, perhaps to someone you don’t even know, then your childhood ends abruptly,’ justice minister Sander Dekker said. ‘Children should be allowed to be children and marriage is not part of that.’
The measures, announced by the two ministers on Wednesday, are part of a major programme by the health and justice ministries to combat domestic violence and child abuse.
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