Last June I wrote about a French marriage that was allowed to be annulled because the woman misrepresented her virginity. The ruling was approved because it was deemed that a woman's virginity was an "essential quality" in her husbands culture. It seems that when it comes to controlling a woman's sexuality the French government had no problem considering a foreign culture.
When a Muslim woman tried to gain French citizenship she was denied because her practice of her religion did not make it possible to integrate into French culture. Apparently, wearing a Burka and not interacting with men to which she was not related was deemed to religious of a lifestyle to integrate into a secular country.
Today I am happy to report that the annulment has been overturned. The couple is once again legally married, and they must now seek new grounds upon which to base their need for the dissolution of their marriage.
In both of these cases the French government was dictating what is and isn't appropriate behaviour for a woman, while no such standard was put into place for men. These rulings are highly sexist in nature.
In these two cases the Madonna/Whore complex collided to control not only a woman's sexuality, but our freedom to lead lives freely. If both purity and open sexuality are disciplined what room is there for autonomous decision? It would seem then that behaviour must be approved of by men in advance of action.
By overturning this decision the high court affirmed that a woman's sexuality cannot be used against her like a weapon. Whether this idea will translate into wider discourse is yet to be seen. Patriarchy has much invested in controlling the female body to suit its needs.
The freedom to have sex and not be belittled, or treated as used filth is a right all women have yet to achieve. On one hand women are expected to be sexually available to men, but if the decision to engage is based on our needs, or our desires it suddenly becomes a shameful act of sluttish behaviour.
A woman should not be punished for choosing not to engage in sex either. The decision to cancel the annulment was wonderful, but the ruling regarding the rejection of citizenship based on chastity, and female subservience also needs to be overturned.
While I do not agree that a woman should subvert her will to a man, it is her right to do so. If we are to respect women's autonomy that means supporting choices that we are not necessarily in agreement with. Ultimately what a woman chooses to do with her body is her business, and no government body should be able to legislate that right away, or deny services based on those grounds.
It seems that there are still so many unresolved issues. While the over turning of the annulment is something for all women to celebrate, it must embolden our efforts to ensure that all women have the right to agency and autonomy. Until we are freed from the social moors that exist to restrict us, the battle can never end.