It is a matter of shame that even in the 21st century, women need to undergo a “virginity test” as a certificate of her character.
Virginity test, a 400-year-old ritual is nothing more than a tool to humiliate any self-respected dignified woman. It is a custom whereby a newly-wed woman has to prove that she was virgin prior to the marriage.
And, the demeaning custom is allegedly followed in the Kanjarbhat community among others.
The Kanjarbhats, a denotified tribe from Maharashtra, practice a custom called ‘gun jiti’.
As per the custom, a bride’s virginity is tested by looking for blood stains on a white sheet after the wedding night. And, the sheet is checked by the groom and his family to declare before the elders whether the bride is a virgin.
The custom started some centuries ago to stop women from engaging in sexual relationships outside their caste.
Virginity Test: The Nightmare for New Brides
Priyanka Tamaichikar, who was a key member of a campaign against Virginity Test, shared with VICE that the ritual involved sending the newlywed couple along with a few relatives to a lodge or motel.
The bride is stripped by female relatives to check that she wasn’t carrying any sharp object to induce bleeding.
And, then the groom is handed a meter-long white cloth on which his bride must bleed during sex.
Then what comes is the most humiliating part of the ritual – the bloodstained cloth is handed to the groom’s mother as not only a proof of the bride’s virginity but as a character certificate.
As per VICE, the morning after the test is nothing less than a living nightmare for any self-respecting woman.
The couple appears in front of a public gathering that includes the panchs (heads) & members of the community.
During the public meeting, the panch asks the groom in front of everyone whether his maal (“stuff”) – the bride’s virginity – was khara (“used”) or khota (“unused”).
And, the women, who fail the test, are not only subject to abuse by their husbands and in-laws, but also an alleged penalty has to be paid to approve the wedding.
What will make you hate it more is how some very well-educated people still support the custom by calling it a “Lakshmana Rekha (boundary)” for girls.
But it does make you wonder,
Why doesn’t anyone ask the men if they are virgins?
Why do ONLY women need to follow Lakshmana Rekha?
The Road Ahead
Neelam Gorhe tabled the issue last year, sharing how women, who opposed the humiliating ritual, were assaulted by the community. During that time the Minister of State for Home, Ranjit Patil responded by announcing a crackdown on the ritual.
He mentioned that the activists who fight against the practice will be protected. And, those who are found to subject women to the ritual will be prosecuted.
And, now the Maharashtra government is taking another progressive step.
It will soon make forcing a woman to undergo virginity test a punishable offense.
“Virginity test will be considered a form of sexual assault…after consultations with the Law and Judiciary department, a circular will be issued declaring it a punishable offence”
This step is very critical as it sends across a very strong message.
We are not okay being a society that harasses and shames its new bride!
We are not okay being a hypocrite when it comes to gender equality!
And, we are not okay telling our young women to be quiet about the attacks on their pride and dignity!