Saturday, May 31, 2008

Virgin Territory

News in France at the moment is the annulling of a marriage by court order in Lille because the bride lied about her virginity, which was discovered by the groom on the wedding night. The court applied article 180 of the Civic Code, which states that if there is an 'objective error' about the status of one party (by this is usually meant a past of prostitution, according to most media commentators) the marriage may be annulled. Aside from the fact that this 'objective error' is probably more likely to be imputed to the female party, this troubling precedent would appear to restore the onus of virginity on the bride, something that we might have thought had long been banished from the modern world.

The couple in question are Muslim, and said to be not at all extremist; there will be those usual 'Gates of Vienna' fascists that will pipe up about this latest manifestation of the mortal danger posed to European civilisation by Islam, but the majority of people condemning this decision are on the left and, not surprisingly, French Muslim women, represented by groups such as Ni putes ni soumises, many of whom say they are fed up of the hypocrisy of those French Muslim men who play around sowing their wild oats but who go back to the old country (or al bled as Maghrebins call it) to find a pure bride. The article in Libé linked to above speculates whether hymen restitution surgery will become widespread among French Muslim women, as it has become in semi-liberated Muslim societies such as Lebanon. Of course medical consensus states that a ruptured hymen is no indicator of virginity and the virginity test has more purchase as a tool of gender domination but it's hard to explain all this to folk that but their faith in religion and tribal practices. Ironically, many of the 'pure' girls from al bled are said to have resorted to anal sex in order to protect the hymen for marriage, which leaves us at a very pretty pass indeed.

One Muslim women who has defended the court's decision, albeit on pragmatic grounds, is the Minister for Justice Rachida Dati. Quite what a member of government is doing giving her opinion on court decisions is unknown to me but Ms Dati said that it removed a threat to the safety of the bride, who may have wanted to get out of the relationship as soon as her 'impure' past was discovered. This may be true but surely there is a better way of going about getting an annullment than favouring the application of a stricture more suited to the Middle Ages?