IN MAHARASHTA, THE KANJARBHAT COMMUNITY CONSISTS OF 200,000 PEOPLE
IF A WOMAN IS FOUND NOT A VIRGIN, SHE WILL BE BEATEN UP, BURNED WITH HOT WATER OR THE MARRIAGE MAY BE ANNULLED
WHAT IS THIS?
The virginity test is a centuries-old tradition in the Kanjarbhat community in Maharashtra. This virginity test is based on the now-debunked belief that all women bleed the first time they have sexual intercourse. As part of the ritual, the bride and groom are given a white sheet to consummate their marriage on while their families wait outside. The couple is then expected to produce bloodstains on the sheet as the woman’s hymen is broken. If there are no bloodstains on the sheets after consummation, the girl is labelled “spoilt goods”, and she can face punishments such as the marriage being annulled, her family being regarded social outcasts (in which the other females in her family will have difficulties finding a husband), or even being beaten or fined.
WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM?
The Kanjarbhat community operates mainly under the village council of elders, known as the panchayat. The panchayat has great authority over the community, even going so far as to outcast those who speak out against the practice of virginity tests. As a new generation of millennials are becoming increasingly outspoken against this practice, tensions have mounted within the community, with both men and women who resist the ritual risking physical abuse. In addition, as some activists have pointed out, this tradition places the requirement of virginity only on women, creating a double standard and an unequal balance of power when women who are accused of pre- marital sex face stiff consequences while men do not.
WHY DOES IT CONTINUE?
Village elders insist that abolishing the practice will encourage women to have pre-marital sex, and that this ritual prevents them from doing so. Also, women who oppose the tradition are afraid to speak up, as they fear the consequences they and their families might face.