Pune: A mob of some 40 people beat up members of a group opposing “virginity test” for brides on the first day of marriage in western India.
The incident occurred during a marriage on January 20 at Bhat Nagar in Pimpri, some 15 km north of Pune, the cultural capital Maharashtra state. The victims belong to a WhatsAapp group “Stop the V-ritual” that opposes against their caste council conducting the virginity tests.
Prashant Ankush Indrekar, a 23-year-old resident of Bhat Nagar in Yerwada has lodged a complaint at the Pimpri police station.
Indrekar and his family were invited for the marriage of a Kanjarbhat couple near Zulelal complex in Bhat Nagar.
Indrekar told The Indian Express newspaper that after the marriage was over at 9 am, the caste panchayat met and talked about demanding money from the bride and the groom. “Also, there was a discussion supporting the virginity test of bride, claiming it was part of their tradition,” he narrated.
Although Indrekar did not oppose the plan at the spot, the panchayat knew he and his friends were members of the WhatsApp grou that creates awareness of the unjust practice among community members.
“So, they got angry and questioned us,” Indrekar said. Then some 40 young people, including the brother of the bride attacked some members of the WhatsApp present on the occasion. “When I intervened, they also started beating me. A person even thrashed us with a leather belt. We condemn this act,” Indrekar, a realtor, explained.
Based on a first information report lodged by Indrekar, the Pimpri police booked 40 persons including the bride’s brother under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
“We have so far arrested two persons identified in this case,” Senior police inspector Shridhar Jadhav of Pimpri police station told the newspaper.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone III) Ganesh Shinde said, “As per our investigation, the quarrel erupted as the accused questioned the complainant regarding virginity tests.”
Shinde said the accused opposed the frequent awareness campaign being carried out by the WhatsApp group.
Indrekar wants the police to invoke sections of the Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act against the accused persons.
A group of young people of Kanjarbhat caste led by Vivek Tamaichikar, a student in Mumbai, formed the “Stop the V-ritual” group.
The WhatsApp group met deputy commissioner of police Deepak Sakore along with members of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (Maharashtra committee for eradication of superstitution) to submit a memorandum to stop virginity test.
“We condemn the attack on progressive Kanjarbhat. Police should consider this issue seriously and ensure that stern legal action against the caste panchayat,” said Nandini Jadhav, district president of anti-superstition committee.
Virginity tests in India
A major part of villages in India believes in virginity test. To know if a girl is a virgin or not after marriage is of utmost importance to these communities who have made their own set of rules which evades into a woman’s privacy.
All the tests are to check if the hymen is intact, which is traumatizing and humiliating for the women. Recently, a man from Nashik in Maharashtra abandoned his wife after she failed the virginity test.
Here are some of the virginity tests that are done on women even today in India:
To ensure a woman is a virgin four kinds of tests are done on her: the fire test, the water test, and the oath giving.
1. Pani ki Dheej (purity by water)
To ensure a woman is virgin, certain communities make woman hold her breath under water while someone walks a hundred steps. The International Rehabilitation Centre for Torture victims describes it as a “gross violation of women’s rights and one that may amount to ill-treatment and torture under international law.”
2. Agnipariksha (trial by fire)
In agnipariksha, the bride has to carry a red-hot iron in her hand. Woman who are unable to do the task or leave it in mid-way are considered impure. The women who fail virginity test are forced to disclose the name of their partners. In some cases, female doctors are asked conduct the test.
3. Kukri ki rasam (stained bed-sheet)
To make sure, the woman is virgin, on the first night of the marriage a white thread is placed on the bed, when the couple consummate their marriage. The following morning, elders of the family locate traces of blood on it. While in some communities, members of their community wait outside the room in which the couple have sex. They are expected to show a blood-stained bed sheet which will prove that the girl was a virgin.
4. Two-finger test
Another commonly known virginity test is the two-finger test. This was earlier generally used to check rape victims. The Supreme Court of India has held the test on a rape victim in the past. Human Rights Watch criticized the test as ‘degrading and unscientific’. In two-finger test, often older women search for a hymen using their fingers. However, it is unscientific as there is no accurate way to check the laxity of vaginal muscles if a girl is habituate to intercourse.
If woman does not pass the virginity test, she is obliged to declare the name of the person with whom she had sexual relations. The family members of the girl or the man whose name she declared are required to pay compensation to the in-laws family, so that, they can accept an ‘impure bride.’ If the family does not agree to pay, the issue is taken to the village or caste council. The council gives the girl and her family members an opportunity to prove the girl is a virgin in front of the community.