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Why one Muslim girl became a born-again virgin for her wedding night
by Diana Appleyard
When Aisha Salim marries her fiance in Pakistan next March, it will be the wedding of her dreams.
Wearing a veil and gown, she will be every inch the fairytale virgin bride and as befits her strict Muslim religion, after the ceremony, she will hand her blooded wedding-night sheets to her in-laws as proof of her virginity.
But far from being the traditional untouched bride that many Muslim families demand, she is a modern-day university graduate who has smoked, drunk, made love to - and even lived with - a previous English boyfriend.
To disguise the fact that she has had sex, she has paid for painful surgery to "restore" her virginity.
It is a drastic and costly measure but as she takes her husband's hand in marriage, she knows it is one which may - quite literally - save her life.
The horror and outrage that would ensue if it was discovered she had already slept with a man would be so damning that her own strictly religious relatives might kill her rather than face public shame.
"My virginity was restored in a delicate operation just last week, and I honestly view it as life-saving surgery," says Aisha.
"If my husband cannot prove to his family that I am a virgin, I would be hounded, ostracised and sent home in disgrace. My father, who is a devout Muslim, would regard it as the ultimate shame.
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