From the ancient times till today virginity in some cultures is very important. Especially in Islamic or catholic countries it's a sign of purity and respectability. Already in Roman Times the Vestal Virgins remained celibate for 30 years on penalty of death and still today during Islamic weddings if the wife doesn't bleed out of her vagina while the wedding night the husband could anul the wedding. Indeed nowadays the situation changed a lot in western orientated countries, in Germany for examples the loss of verginity is commonly considered to be an important life event and a rite of passage and this is the reason why the most women in the western world during their first night with her husband aren't virgins anymore.
In Italy, despite the fact that it belongs to modern Europe, virginty especially in the south of the country (e.g. Sicily or Calabria) is still important.
This ideology is caused at the fact that Italy is the stronghold of the catholic curch where 98% of the people are catholic and 70% still practice this religion. But nowadys the influence of western culture change the situation in the country; in the north virginty isn't as important as it was before and the admontition of the pope to keep the juvenile innocence now just fall on deaf ears, but in the south where old traditions like virginity have still a very high value Girls who already have sex with 16 are just expulse of the society. Naturally the situation isn't comparable with the one in Islamic states where honour killing is accounted as a respectable and indispensable act.
One of the top themes in the book "Looking for Albrandi" is virginty. Indeed Josie isn't a very strict catholic but according to her the loss of one's maideness is...