Dutch gov't to stop hymen restoration surgeries; recognizing child marriages

The Dutch government wants to stop surgeries carried out in the Netherlands to restore the hymen of women and girls because such operations fall under harmful practices that do not fit with the norms and values of Dutch society. The government also plans to put down in law that child marriages conducted abroad will no longer be recognized in the Netherlands, NOS reports.

The professional association of gynecologists already adjusted its position on hymen restoration surgeries. Plastic- and cosmetic surgeons have to do the same by June 1st. If these surgeries are still performed after that, the cabinet will consider a legal ban, Ministers Hugo de Jonge of Public Health and Sander Dekker for Legal Protection wrote in a letter to parliament.

The hymen is a membrane that partially covers the opening of the vagina. The presence of a hymen is traditionally taken to be a mark of virginity, though scientifically this is not the case. A number of religious and other communities expect girls to remain virgins until their wedding night. If they don't, it can lead to gossip about the woman's behavior and social exclusions. The hymen surgery is supposed to ensure that a woman "bleeds" on her wedding night, according to the broadcaster.

There are no precise figures on how many hymen restoration surgeries are carried out in the Netherlands, but according to estimates, thousands of women inquire about the surgery every year and a few hundred women actually get it. 

The government is also going to anchor in the law that child marriages that were concluded abroad will no longer be recognized in the Netherlands. Currently such marriages are recognized and registered in the civil register once both partners come of age. The government wants to get rid of that option, though further research into how to achieve that must first be done.