Maharashtra Govt To Make 'Virginity Test" Punishable Offense, Calls It "Sexual Assault"
On Wednesday, February 6, the Maharashtra government said that forcing a woman to undergo virginity test will be soon made an offence punishable by law, as it is a form of “sexual assault”. A custom is followed by certain communities in Maharashtra whereby a woman who is newly wed is made to prove that she was a virgin before her marriage.
“Will take cognisance of complaints of virginity tests”
A delegation of activists was assured by Ranjit Patil, minister of state for home, that shortly a new notification will be issued on this, reported Mumbai Mirror. It is expected to be issued following a detailed report being submitted by the deputy secretary of home in the meeting and the demands of the activists.
According to Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe, who was among the activists at a meeting with Patil, said that according to the minister, virginity tests could fall under the Prohibition of Social Boycott Act. Further, police action taken under the Act could be reviewed by district-level committees. As recorded, in the state’s n the Kanjarbhat community, there have been 22 cases where women have been subjected to virginity tests. An online campaign has been launched by some youths from the community against this practice.
Gorhe further said that what is more a matter of concern is police inaction in instances of such social boycott. “So, it was agreed that the protection of women against violence cell of the police will take cognisance of complaints of virginity tests,” she said.
The campaign against the practice of virginity tests is being led by Vivek Tamaichikar from the Kanjarbhat community. According to him, in the community, the practice is an open secret, but women are scared to protest. Hence, the people in the campaign want offenders to be booked by the police. Such cases can be investigated based on circumstantial evidence under the Indian Penal Code and the Prohibition of Social Boycott Act. He pointed out that it is impractical to put the onus of filing a complaint on the woman, although the fear of police action will most likely deter offenders only.
Virginity tests, a reality in Kanjarbhat community
A denotified tribe, the Kanjarbhats migrated to parts of Western Maharashtra and Gujarat from Rajasthan. A caste panchayat and their own set of codified rules govern them. As a part of their caste tradition, on her wedding night, a bride has to undergo a ‘character test’. Immediately after getting married, the husband and wife on a white cloth will consummate their marriage in a lodge. The test is overseen by the caste council. The panchayat members are paid Rs 300 or even more by both families.
The girl passes the test if she bleeds, and if she does not, the caste panchayat asks her who she had had premarital intercourse with. It is likely that she will be beaten up, her family will be ostracised and will be asked to pay huge amounts of money in order to settle the matter. If anyone dares to defy the Kanjarbhat law book, they will be socially boycotted.
In July 2017, a law had been passed by the Maharashtra state government criminalising caste panchayats, but the kangaroo courts have only continued and gathered unimaginable power in the community.
Shockingly, the demeaning custom is supported by several older women in the community. In a book of laws published by the Jat Panchayat groups in 2000, details of rules of traditional customs are mentioned, including this practice.
Although education and exposure have brought about a change in the thought process of many young girls in society they are still scared to voice their opinion. This practice humiliates and demeans women, and is one of the worst forms of crime. In an age when people talk of liberal mindset and equality and freedom, patriarchy prevailing in communities like these is shameful. The Logical Indian condemns the practice and urges the government to implement the rule strictly.