7. The Virginity Test
Virginity is viewed by many as a sign of purity. In many cultures across Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and in the Far East, a woman who gets married while she is still a virgin brings much pride and wealth to her father, although it is the mother’s responsibility to ensure that her daughter does not engage in sexual experiments before marriage. Doing so would tarnish the family’s name.
A virgin wife is also valued more by her husband in some places. In these cultures, such a woman attracts a higher dowry, which usually includes gold, money, camels, cows, goats, fine fabrics, expensive perfumes, spices, and even furniture. A girl discovered to not be a virgin on her wedding night will bring a lot of shame and dishonor to her parents and close family. Due to this, much care is taken to ensure that girls maintain their virginity.
Abstaining from premarital sex was also a part of traditional American customs. Adolescent lovers were allowed some private talk, but so parents didn’t have to worry about them engaging in intercourse, they were tied up separately with cloth or blankets in a way that prevented them from being intimate. This was mostly practiced in colonial America but was also practiced in Northwestern Europe. Sometimes, a wooden partition was used
In Islamic communities, maintaining a girl’s virginity is a deeply rooted custom. Girls and boys are segregated from an early age. Unmarried girls live under the watchful eyes of their parents and older siblings. Courting is discouraged, and traditionally, the parents choose spouses for their children. Although nowadays, young people normally do communicate before marriage, proof of the girl’s virginity on her wedding night is still highly valued. Normally, a woman from the girl’s family is assigned to take the sheet that the newlyweds use on their wedding night and display it to the family of both the girl and the boy. If the girl was a virgin, it is expected that the bedsheet will be stained with blood, due to the girl’s hymen having been broken.
This custom is also practiced among the Swahili in the famous coastal towns of Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu in Kenya. If the girl is found to be a virgin, the groom’s family commences elaborate celebrations that last two days, in which the bloodstained sheet is paraded in the streets for all to bear witness to the fact that their son made a good choice. However, if the bride is found to be “polluted” and doesn’t produce the expected bleeding to stain the sheet, it brings shame to her family, and the marriage could even be broken and the bride sent back to her parents’ home.