Friday, November 21, 2008

The Role Of The Hymen In French Marriage

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.


9 comments:

Anonymous said...

The annulment was overturned and now they're legally married and have to do this all over again? Bitter/Sweet. I'd personally rather not be trapped in a marriage I didn't wont to be in.

-Ben

Ashley said...

While I fully agree on the problematic political implications of the annulment, what do you think should have been done? Any marriage where the husband cares that much about the hymen is pretty much guaranteed to be bad, and for a lot of these women divorce is a permanent black mark in their community (but somehow annulment isn't...).

So, for the woman's sake, what do you think should have happened?

Lindsay said...

I remember this story from the summer when I commented on it in my French class.

While I'm glad to hear that the fuck-all case wasn't held up in court... it's unfortunate that the marriage is still on and they have to go through all that crap again. My thoughts are with that woman.

Anonymous said...

What's more, this blatantly disrespects the fundamentalist Muslim religious traditions of wife-beating and honor killing...

As for those [wives] from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. (Koran 4:34)

Dori said...

Anon 4...

your suggestion is problematic at best. Your statement seems somewhat islamophobic and ignorant.

Also, your translation of the Qur'an is limited at best. If you are going to speak out against something, at least know what you are actually speaking out against.

mzbitca said...

I dont know much about this story? Was the wife satisfied with the annulment. There could be an issue of monetary benefit that you could get in a divorce but not in an annulment?

Renee said...

@mzbitca neither side is happy to find that they are once again married. Both lawyers are not frantically searching for grounds for an annulment to preclude having to get a divorce. Even if one individual woman is happy the case has larger implications because it could be applied to all women. Sexual purity demands for one sex and not the other are unequal and no secular state should demand that of women based in religion.

Renee said...

@anon #4

You might as well get off your ignorant high horse because the christian bible is filled with many acts of violence against women.

AR said...

You might as well get off your ignorant high horse because the christian bible is filled with many acts of violence against women.

Why do you think Anon # is Christian, or thinks well of Christianity? What do the relative merits of Christianity have to do with the moral failings of the Koran, anyway? I agree with Anon 4's sentiment, and insofar as Christianity is guilty of the same things, that just means we should oppose it as well. But that's not the religion we're talking about here...