An unmarried woman who has lost her virginity might as well be a whore. She is self-confident and looks people in the eye. At first glance, she comes across as a poster child for successful integration. Nevertheless, she is adamantly opposed to seeing her name in print, just as she would never meet a journalist for an interview in one of the hookah bars in her neighborhood that are so popular among Arab and Turkish immigrants.
She is worried that someone could overhear her talking about her family's strict morals, and about the rigid code of honor in her social environment that prevents girls from having sex before marriage and forbids them from having boyfriends.
She nervously stirs her tea before launching into a litany of complaints. Since then, she has been deathly afraid of being branded by her family as a dishonorable girl -- or, worst yet, punished and cast out. A Constant Tug-of-War Hardly any other issue is as fraught with prohibition and fear among Germany's Muslim immigrants as sex.
Many Muslim families adhere to moral values from a pre-modern era, and the separation of the sexes affects almost all aspects of daily life. At the same time, young female immigrants are faced with the temptations of a free life unrestrained by religious and cultural traditions. Their daily lives are a constant tug-of-war between two value systems. Many of them suffer from this contradiction, and some crack under the strain. Doctors and social workers report on desperate young women coming to them with requests to reconstruct the hymen or perform late-term abortions.
In a multi-year study, the group hopes to discover why the suicide rate within this population is apparently twice as high as it is among ethnic German women of the same age. The consequences of living this double life have been poorly studied. Almost no governmental and non-governmental organizations, from family and education ministries to immigration authorities and self-help groups, can offer reliable figures or well-founded conclusions on the issue. According to Piening, youth welfare agencies, government offices and schools have been educated on the issue for years, "but a lot remains to be done.
Of course, these problems do not exclusively affect Muslim groups. Young women in other social groups also suffer as a result of strict moral codes and domestic violence. And there are also Muslim families in which the daughters lead a modern, self-determined life, a fact that Piening and other politicians are quick to point out.
But doctors, social workers and the operators of crisis hotlines and youth clubs often experience a different reality. They note that, like in Turkey, equal rights are usually only experienced in families in academic or artistic circles. Otherwise, strict traditions dictate that fathers and brothers control the lives of their sisters and daughters.
This helps to explain why many girls with Turkish and Arab origins are so candid about their double lives, but only as long as they are not named. Otherwise, they are not permitted to go out. Going to a party is tantamount to turning tricks, and girls who are not home by 8 p. The only freedom these girls enjoy is at school, while shopping or in youth clubs. What else should I do?
The girls are talking about sex, and almost all of them have something to say, something about their families that upset them.
Nevertheless, most have boyfriends, and even a visit to a gynecologist would be unthinkable for many of these girls, for fear of being spotted by relatives who would automatically conclude that they are there to get the pill -- and are therefore sluts.
Some of them didn't know anything at all. Taking a boy home would almost be suicidal, say the girls at the youth club. The thought alone is so unheard-of that it triggers hysterical laughter. They rattle off the places where they have their rendezvous: Connecting with a Hotline And what happens then?
Papatya, a Berlin crisis center and shelter for girls of Turkish origin, provides neither an address nor a telephone number on his website. For more than 20 years, Papatya has been offering protection and shelter to young immigrant girls and women fleeing domestic violence. The organization is careful to keep its identity and whereabouts a secret. When it comes to injured family honor, anyone who so much as helps the girls can quickly get into danger.
Those who want to contact Papatya are asked to leave a number on an emergency hotline. A short time later, a social worker or a psychologist calls the girls.
One of the staff members at the center is a woman named Leila. In the eight years she has been working at Papatya, she has heard the same complaints again and again. Her list runs the gamut from girls being kept at home and barred from going to school to forced marriage and acts of violence committed on behalf of parents. In her counseling sessions, the girls repeatedly talk about their virginity, and about the fact that their happiness, or lack thereof, can depend solely on a few millimeters of skin.