Lebanese Law on Rape & Virginity: The Hymen Criteria

As many of you know, I am currently pursuing a medical degree. And as part of our medical education, we get numerous anatomy lectures that cover every human body part in its dull details.

On Tuesday, we were being given a lecture about the female pelvis and perineum. Being a morning lecture, most of the class was asleep – that is until the discussion about hymens started.

For those of you who don’t know, the hymen is a thin epithelial perforated layer that serves as a “curtain” to the vagina. For many, it is considered as a sign of “virginity” although it isn’t a highly credible criteria: the hymen being as thin as it is can be broken off in many ways that do not include intercourse and can also be repaired through a procedure called hymenoplasty.

But in our parts of the world, this 2 cm layer of skin is the honor of a man, not knowing that true honor comes by not caring about such minute details in the first place. After all, men in our region are considered as “men” if they have had premarital sex and those same men condemn the women who do as if they’d be having sex alone.

But I digress. This is not a post to discuss our region’s sociological ways.

During that same lecture, the doctor giving the lecture opened up a discussion about one criteria of rape in Lebanese law. I know our law when it comes to rape is overly messed up. There’s nothing that works in it. But this part of it, which most people are often clueless about, is simply mind-blowlingly stupid.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of that law where if someone commits suicide and they happen to fall on your car then it’s automatically your fault? Well this its vagina-equivalence.

What’s the law? If a girl said she were raped but her hymen had not been torn off to the walls of the vagina, then it’s not considered rape.

Meaning, if it’s obvious the girl had intercourse but the intercourse had not caused her hymen to be torn off completely, then the examining physician cannot say she was raped.

In a part of our laws that is so absurd, this often goes unnoticed that even the doctor giving us the lecture was outraged at the number of times he had to dismiss women who were obviously violated just because Lebanese law does not allow him to say so.