Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Hymenoplasty is a medical procedure done to alter the shape of the hymen membrane. Dutch women of predominantly Muslim migrant ancestry resort to the surgery to maintain the appearance of premarital virginity. This dissertation research studies hymenoplasty as a social phenomenon. It asks: how do the interconnecting issues of gender, religion and migration play out during interactions between doctors and Dutch patients of migrant ancestry in the medical and institutional context of hymenoplasty in the Netherlands? Findings were collected from 2012 and 2015 through participant observations of 70 hymenoplasty consultations in medical establishments in the Netherlands. These observations were complemented with interviews with hymenoplasty providers and patients as well as with people of similar ancestry with the surgery seeking women. Written as a collection of journal articles, this dissertation addresses the issue of variability of treatment, demedicalization of the ‘broken’ hymen, patients’ rhetoric of religion, national identity as medical recommendations, and women empowerment as topics of analysis. By closely paying attention to exchanges between hymenoplasty seeking women and medical professionals, this study posits that patients’ identity markers shape the course of interactions between them and the doctors. Ultimately, differences between doctors and patients, including gender, religion and migration history, are not only brought to light during hymenoplasty consultations in medical institution, but they are also specifically addressed and treated as integral aspects of both patients’ motivation for the operation as well as the cornerstones of their problems which, when dealt with, will lead to the surgery seeking women’s ‘salvation’.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

John Jan Willem R. Bowen Duyvendak

Committee Members

Anita Hardon, Annemarie Mol, Annelies Moors, Shanti Parikh,


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