Rituals

Tunisian women describe pressure to show proof of virginity on their wedding nights

A woman walks on the Tunisian island of Djerba. (JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

Rituals surrounding a bride’s virginity on the night of her wedding are sacred in Tunisia, a country that still holds conservative values around sex even while it has embraced more progressive stances on women’s rights in recent years. Women are expected to bleed from sex on the night of their wedding, and show some sort of proof of blood to family members. A handful of Tunisian women spoke to the Huffington Post about the pressure from the rituals, including weddings in which family members stayed near the couple’s bedroom door until the husband lit a candle in the window signifying the bleeding, or else collected the blood-stained sheets the morning after for evidence of a bride’s virginity.

“For me, it took place the day after my first relation with my husband,” one woman said. “I called my sister-in-law to show her the sheet and tell her to bring it to my mother-in-law if she wanted to. I see no harm in doing this, quite the opposite. It is a sign of respect, and it remains symbolic.”

One woman said the pressure to show evidence of blood led to rough sex that made her hemorrhage, leading to a hospital visit. Some women even undergo hymen-reconstruction surgery before a wedding, allowing them to bleed again on their wedding night, while others only had anal sex ahead of marriage to preserve their ability to bleed.

Read the full story on The Huffington Post.

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