Excerpt:

The surgery in the private clinic off the Champs-Élysées involved one semicircular cut, 10 self-dissolving stitches and a discounted fee of $2,900.

But for the patient, a 23-year-old French student of Moroccan descent from Montpellier, the 30-minute procedure represented the key to a new life: the illusion of virginity.

Like an increasing number of other Muslim women in Europe, she had a "hymenoplasty," a restoration of her hymen, the thin vaginal membrane that normally breaks during the first act of intercourse.

"In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt," said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery Thursday. "Right now, virginity is more important to me than life."

As Europe's Muslim population grows, many young Muslim women find themselves caught between the freedoms that European society affords and the deep-rooted traditions of their parents' and grandparents' generations.

Gynecologists report that in the past few years, more Muslim women are asking for certificates of virginity before marriage.


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