Posted on 20-01-2013
Filed Under (WOMAN) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

Men’s barbaric ways are tormenting women in India. Story after brutal story of abuses against women is being reported. But on the globe’s other side, girls are posting their readiness to sell their virginity in a website that’s just auctioned off two virgins. Advances in medical technology has put so many human parts up for sale, like kidneys, eyes, heart, sperms, eggs, wombs for research, to save lives or help homosexual couples father a child. And yet, the auction of a hymen seems to supersede all sales! In my current gender equilibrium series, should I consider this feat as women’s liberty? Nobody forced the brave girl to sell her virginity, she proved that certain men fantasize on women’s virginity and consciously extracted that worth from the marketplace.

Listening as I often do to international media, it intrigued me the other day when the famous French radio station Europe One aired a very bubbly French accented “Vihrgeens Onthed” (Virgins Wanted in English) annals program. Twenty-year-old Brazilian Catarina Migliorini’s virginity was put on auction in an Australian website together with boy virgin, Alexander Stepanov. The bid started with $1 within Brazil, then spread worldwide. On 24 October 2012, both were sold: Catarina fetched a whopping $780,000 with 15 bids. Her third highest bidder was an Indian Rudra Chatterjee, the runner-up American Jack Miller while Natsu, a Japanese won his prize “flying in a private jet between Australia and the US in order to counteract international prostitution laws.” Meanwhile Alexander the man got 8 bids and sold for $2,800 only. Look at the premium female virginity commands even in today’s promiscuous society! Education and charity are on Catarina’s to-do list from this one-time bonanza she got.

Patriarchal societies where women are considered subservient to men are fixated on virginity. Deflowering a virgin supposedly gives men a sense of dominance and possession, a heady feeling of masculinity in drawing blood. It makes them winners, feudal owners of the conquest. In that act, women become losers, even though she’s just ruptured a body membrane. Some private clinics in Dubai are abetting unmarried girls to restore virginity by illegally performing hymen restoration or reconstruction surgeries. Banned for girls in most Arab countries where they’re expected to be virgins before marriage for cultural, social or religious reasons, such a surgery is supposedly a crime. But it’s not so if married women undergo this 90-minute surgery costing about Dh 10,000 ($2,700).

Is virginity a possession more valuable than other inevitable body functions like shedding milk teeth, losing hair or eyesight weakening with time? Female virginity remains a discussion topic and secret desire of men in developed countries too, although here it’s not associated with morality and honour issues. In 1981 when Lady Diana was engaged to marry Britain’s Prince Charles, as per a set of unwritten conventions governing royal life, British Royalty and its advisers expected her to be a virgin to ensure purity of the bloodline. That prompted Lord Fermoy, her late uncle, to publicly announce she was a "bonafide" virgin. Under society’s double standards, no one expected Charles to be a virgin. This reflects society’s acceptance of so-called superiority of males and of royalty. Perhaps the new generation is changing the masculine character of overpowering women. Their son Prince William has broken tradition. He’s lived with his commoner girlfriend on-and-off for 8 years before marrying her.

High value was placed on virginity in Western mythology. Ancient Rome’s Goddess Vesta (Hestia to Greeks) had 9 virgin priestesses serving her. Vestal virgin Rhea Silvia, raped by the God Mars, gave birth to Romulus and Remus, twin founders of Rome. The city’s fate was linked to virginity. If any of the virgins broke virginity vows, wars or natural disasters would befall Rome. So transgressors were punishable by death, the last recorded one was buried alive in 150 AD. Virgin Greek goddesses Hestia, Artemis, and Athena were symbols of female power and independence, quite unlike the connotation for virginity today. Among Greek gods, virginity was a renewable quality. Goddess Hera, wife of Zeus, renewed her virgin status every year by bathing in a special stream.

So was Queen Draupadi, wife of the 5 Pandava brothers, granted a boon from Lord Shiva to be born a virgin every year. She’s considered an eternal Kanya (virgin) in Hindu epic Mahabharata although she birthed a son each for her 5 husbands. Revered for her intellect and steely substance, she lived not only in polyandry, but managed polygamous relationships as all her husbands had other wives: Yudhisthira was married to Devika, Bhima to Hidimba, Arjun to several princesses and Subhadra, Nakul to Karenumati, and Sahadev to Vijaya. Disrespect to women got ingrained in the Indian male psyche when Draupadi’s eldest husband gambled her away like an object in a dice game he lost. His opponent publicly disrobed a defenceless Draupadi but Lord Krishna’s divine intervention made her sari endless, thus saving her modesty. It’s obvious that women have been fighting for self-respect from times immemorial.

Obsession with virginity is just another blown-out-of-proportion factor that demeans women. Our age-old culture has conditioned young girls to prize their virgin status without realizing they are buttressing male egos by doing so. The family should empower girls in the same way they do boys. Neighbours should become sensitive to a woman’s suppression next door and help her to fight it. Office colleagues should maintain decorum instead of taking gender-based advantage. TV and radio can encourage open sessions with men and women on family, education, sexual matters and how to work together at home and outside. The more these points are openly debated, the situation will improve for half the human population that’s long been denied justice. Let’s work towards equal treatment and equal opportunity for both genders.

To download above article in PDF Does virginity have value?

Financial Express link:http://www.indianexpress.com/news/does-virginity-have-value-/1061899/0

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