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In rural areas where there is an even more conservative culture, females who lose their virginity are sometimes even killed by males in their family.Unable to bear this harassment, some women develop mental illnesses or even commit suicide.If after having sex for the first time, a husband doesn’t conclude that his wife’s hymen has broken, he can question her very dignity.These men feel that because they’re not the first man with whom their wife has had sex, their masculinity has been insulted.At ages as young as 9 or 10, girls are not allowed to wear shorts or to go out by themselves.When they’re a bit older, they can date boys, but only with the understanding that the couple will eventually marry.She told me, “You have to lose your virginity in order to have babies.” Back then, I didn’t fully understand the word, but little by little I realized that “virginity” is a crucial element of a broader sexist culture that aims to oppress women through their bodies.I live in Tunisia, and virginity here is sacred; it’s the most valuable thing a woman can have.

What’s worse, women who have been raped often aren’t considered eligible for a respectable marriage at all because this act of violence is equated with them losing their virginity.

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The recent legal victory regarding this issue, therefore, doesn’t address the bullying and discrimination women who lose their virginity out of wedlock are still subjected to.

At the same time that this stigma persists, many men who adhere to these ideals about women’s virginity and dignity have sex with many women themselves both before and after marriage.

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