Fatima and her boyfriend had been together for about two years when she discovered she was pregnant. I didn't want to do it, but in this society I didn't have any choice," she says, now an outspoken 27 year-old."I hate it when I remember it, because it was a very, very bad experience." Her family know nothing of her ordeal. He has had sex several times and feels no guilt, but would never tell his parents.One of my best friends told me he made love with his girlfriend and then said 'I won't ever marry her - she's not a virgin'," one 19-year-old female student said.Illegal operation This pressure drives the demand for hymen reconstruction operations, which can even involve stitching a small capsule of red fluid into the vagina to ensure wedding night "bleeding".
Dr Khofash is certain that the number of abortions is increasing: "All gynaecologists know this, but we don't know how much it is increasing by." 'Not widespread' But Dr Sahar Tawila of Cairo University, who co-ordinated one of the most comprehensive studies ever of young people in Egypt, believes the prevalence of sex before marriage has been dramatically overblown in the Egyptian media. Sexual relationships do exist, but they should be put in proportion." In the 2001 nationwide study, 21% of young men with higher education said they knew someone who had had pre-marital sex - and this dropped to 1.4% among the uneducated.The natural desire to have sex is guiltily denied by the person and considered taboo by society, even though it is only human instinct.Everyone thinks about it, but no one will admit it.Dr Tawila says young people, particularly girls, are highly aware of the risks of pre-marital sex.For example, Shaymaa, 20, is in love with Ashraf, her boyfriend of 18 months.On any summer evening along Cairo's 6th October Bridge, veiled figures nestle up to young men.The couples gaze down into the Nile, engaged in intimate conversation amid the blaring horns and traffic fumes.For those who would like to, there are still many barriers.Mona, 27, was with her boyfriend for two years: "We didn't have full sex. If it was easier, yes, I think I would have liked to. I felt guilty about what we did." And many others simply believe it is wrong, like Cairo University student Mohammed Esmat, 20: "I'm a Muslim and in Islam sex before marriage is forbidden, so I am against it." Some names have been changed to protect the identities of interviewees. How do young men and women get to know other in your country? The following comments reflect the balance of views received: I did not want to comment about my own experiences.Spending the night together is difficult as both live at home with their families.Even going to a hotel means checking into different rooms and sneaking between them.