In Kolhapur, Two Sisters Were Subjected To Virginity Tests. We’re Still Doing This In 2021?
In some cultures, abstinence is expected from both men and women before marriage. But what we do in our relationships and with our body should be our business, right? If two adults want to have sex with mutual consent, why does society think it’s appropriate to police them? While that mindset itself is orthodox and regressive, it comes coated in sexism often! Nobody cares if the man has had relationships and sex. But they expect women to bring their virginity to marriage. Now that is bad enough, looking at women who’ve had sex before as spoilt goods. But what makes situation worse is that they make women go through a virginity test, which is not even remotely scientifically valid.
Recently, two sisters were subjected to a virginity test after they got married in the same community in Kolhapur. After they failed the test, they are now ordered to get divorced from their husbands through a “jaat panchayat”. The police has booked the two husbands, the mother-in-law and some members of this self-appointed panchayat for passing the divorce order against the two sisters. The FIR was lodged by the sisters.
According to the complaint, the two sisters belong to Kanjarbhat community in Kolhapur. They had received a proposal for marriage from two men belonging to the same community. One of them was an Army man and the other was privately employed.
When the sisters got married to the two men in Kolhapur, the two brides were subjected to a virginity test as per the community’s tradition. Both couples were given a white sheet which they were supposed to use during the intercourse. If during sex, the bride’s hymen breaks and there’s a blood stain on the sheet, she passes the test. Otherwise, she is accused of having lost her virginity to another man in the past.
In the statement, one sister said since she didn’t bleed, she was accused of being sexually active in the past. She however said her sister had “passed the test”. Having failed the test, her husband and in laws demanded Rs 10 lakh from her for the construction of a house. They threatened they would not maintain any relations with the two sisters if she refuses to cough up the sum.
She further went on to say how she and her sister were physically abused by their husbands and in laws. After that, they threw the sisters out of the house and asked them to return to their own home. That is when their mother approached the jaat panchayat who allegedly took Rs. 40,000 from her. This organization sounds like such a sham but whatever.
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A jaat panchayat was organised at a temple and after listening to the problem, they ordered the husbands to divorce the sisters. The sisters alleged that they were also boycotted by their community. Their mother approached Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti for help who assisted them in lodging a police complaint.
Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with having had sex before. There’s absolutely nothing wrong and we need to stop attaching a woman’s worth to her virginity. Secondly, while we are getting down and dirty about this, where’s the proof that a man has done it or not? Thirdly, hymens break, without having sex. So this test has no scientific root and several women have been falsely accused of lying about their virginity because of this.
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“Virginity testing a, also referred to as hymen, “two-finger” or per vaginal examination, is an inspection of the female genitalia meant to determine whether a woman or girl has had vaginal intercourse. As shown in a systematic review on virginity testing, the examination has no scientific merit or clinical indication – the appearance of a hymen is not a reliable indication of intercourse and there is no known examination that can prove a history of vaginal intercourse,” reports WHO.
“Furthermore, the practice is a violation of the victim’s human rights and is associated with both immediate and long-term consequences that are detrimental to her physical, psychological and social well-being. The harmful practice of virginity testing is a social, cultural and political issue, and its elimination will require a comprehensive societal response supported by the public health community and health professionals,” it adds.
What is this culture? These men married the women, had sex with them and now anyway they are not virgins. In a place where these virginity tests are happening, this is bound to take a toll on the women’s psychological and social wellbeing. This is how our patriarchal culture continues to push women down to the bottom of the pyramid. They continue to violate our rights, our boundaries, even though this invasive process is deemed illegal in India. Of course, like several other sexist traditions, law doesn’t stop people from taking this forward. The jaat panchayat is right, they should divorce their husbands – the sisters don’t deserve to be with such sick people!