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Women risk serious health damages to regain their virginity with the alum stone

The widespread practice of restoring a woman's virginity through the use the alum stone is a phenomenon worth mentioning. The practice is associated with serious health risks .

A marriage ceremony. (Photo:
Liliane Ndangue, a France 24 observer in Yaoundé, has investigated the use alum stone in Cameroon. She stated that the alum stone is often in the northern regions of Cameroon, as well as in some parts of Nigeria.

"It's commonly used by Hausa people [one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa]. In areas where the majority of the population is Muslim, there is a lot of pressure on women to be virgins until their wedding night," Ndangue stated in a France 24 report. "If a woman is not a virgin, she runs the risk of being shunned by her husband, and the other women in  her family will also be looked down upon.

Various Cameroonian gynecologists have agreed that the practice carries catastrophic health damages for women. Dr.Nfor is a Cameroonian gynecologist who has treated patients who used the alum stone.

"Women may have to undergo surgery because their genitalia where completely torn," Dr.Angèle Nfor said. "The tears will increase the risk of infectious diseases and expose women to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases."

Infertility is another major health issue associated with the alum stone. Dr.Michel Okono, a gynecologist/obstetrician at Yaounde University Teaching Hospital, said that women should not insert anything into the vagina, because it is an organ that cleans itself.

"When you insert an object into the vagina, a host of germ comes with it," Dr.Okono said. "A woman with the habit of inserting objects into her genitalia is exposed to recurrent infections  that can cause infertility."

According to a France 24 report, the alum stone is crushed and mixed with water, sometimes with honey and lemon juice, then it is applied to the vagina. This solution gives a momentary contraction of the vagina.

The alum stone is widely sold in Cameroonian markets. (Photo:  France 24 Observers)

The alum stone, also called limestone, is a mineral of alum constituting of aluminium sulphate and potassium. It has a hemostatic effect and is effective for stopping bleeding from small cuts and this property gives it its use as an after shave deodorant. Its also heavily used as a sports deodorant because of its perspiration resistant property.

Doctor Joseph, a gynecologist who worked in the North of Cameroon in 2010, has treated women with complications stemming from the use of the alum stone.

"In general, women should not put any products in their vaginas, since the vagina has a self cleaning mechanism. The alum stone destroys the vaginal flora that helps protect women from sexually transmitted diseases," Doctor Joseph said.

Doctor Joseph said that the so-called virginity is very short-lived and the the stone has no effect at all. However, its effects on a woman's health are catastrophic. Women wait too long to get medical help. Since the practice is not on the rise added the dire lack of information around it, authorities have not  yet tackled this health issue, Doctor Joseph stated in a France 24 report.

"Moreover, because the stone's powder has the consistency of sand, it inevitably provokes irritations, which can lead to serious cases of vaginitis," Doctor Joseph said. "Finally, if a woman uses alum stone regularly it will cause the vagina walls to become rigid, and then tear when they give birth. This technique should absolutely not be used."

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