22 september 2020

Central Asia news

The bloody right of the first night. «The Burden of Virginity» documentary is filmed in Uzbekistan

11.03.2009 15:48 msk

Sid Yanyshev

Arts Uzbekistan

On March 5, 2009 expecting the International women’s day, the director of Tashkent Cinema Museum, film-maker Oleg Karpov and his wife, art photographer Umida Ahmedova, presented the new joint documentary – “The Burden of Virginity”, produced under the sponsor support of Swiss Embassy in Uzbekistan.

This is the first Uzbek movie, raising important issue not only for Uzbekistan, but also for all oriental countries. The film focuses on preserving the virginity by the wedding ceremony. The controversy of the topic promised higher attention of the public.

The first part of the documentary is devoted to the life of one countrywoman. The mother shares that in the morning, following the grand wedding, her daughter was publicly banished from the house.

After such shame, the girl several times attempted the suicide, but her mother and sisters were able to rescue her. Now she is thirty, but she is not married yet. Her ex-husband was also unlucky: marrying another woman, he has not become happy.

The second part of the documentary shows the anonymous interview with people of various backgrounds: sociologist, doctor, people of culture and even forensic scientist. The authors of the film interview older women from different villages that once faced such problem.

According to the old tradition, the relatives of the groom want to demonstrate the bed sheet with blood spots as an evidence of virginity after the wedding night. It is a big shame for the girl if the bed sheet is clean. Sometimes, the newly wedded couple paints the bed sheet with the blood, prepared in advance. According to the film characters, there were even few cases of suicide among frustrated husbands.

The majority of people in Uzbekistan, particularly in the rural areas, support such old tradition. The relatives of the groom often times insist on medical examination of the bride prior to wedding. Moreover, this custom is supported by prominent scientists in the republic.

If the bed sheet remains clean the problem is resolved the following way: the relatives of the groom take the bride to medical examiner that identifies the period of defloration (if appropriate): yesterday, two days ago or way ago.

According to one of the characters that are involved in the protection of women’s rights, one girl directed the letter, addressed to the prominent medical expert, asking how to avoid “examination”. The doctor responded that “it is possible to avoid meeting the gynecologist. You just need to invite two women that will confirm the presence of maidenhead with the help of small columbine egg…”.

The authors of “The Burden of Virginity” documentary let the public give independent evaluation of positive and negative sides of the movie. In the opinion of Oleg Karpov, such approach produced some misunderstanding among Swiss Embassy representatives that run extensive gender programs in the republic, under which the sponsorship funds were allocated. “The Swiss side believes that the position of film authors must be clear: the audience should clearly catch either positive or negative message in relation to the covered topic and, by the way, it is desirable that audience would have negative impression of the topic of virginity”, Mr. Karpov says. “However, I believe that everybody has a right to have independent opinion. It is impossible to eradicate the national tradition within short period of time. But we also need to pay attention to the problem and give sound estimate…”

Oleg Karpov
Oleg Karpov

- On the other hand, - Mr. Karpov continues – Swiss believe that some episodes of the movie turned out to become too rough and they need to be softened. During the last watch of the documentary, there were few concerns on what response can be expected “from above”. Now it is not clear how to balance the revelatory straightness on the one hand and softness and caution on the other hand… Nonetheless, we said what we said in our movie.

It is worth mentioning that according to the Gender Program Director at the Swiss Embassy in Uzbekistan, Eleonora Faizullaeva, the film authors broke the rules of the film production agreement; therefore, the Gender program “does not want to have anything in common with this documentary”. “We do not support this documentary as it totally reflects the personal position of the authors”.

Sid Yanyshev