CASTE PANCHAYAT PUTS GIRL THROUGH ‘VIRGINITY’ TEST
A 20-year-old girl from Ahmednagar district has been placed on house arrest by her father, along with her mother. The girl’s father saw this as a fitting punishment after the duo attempted to file a police complaint against the girl’s husband and the caste panchayat. Their mobile phones have been taken away and they have been restricted to the house for the past week.
The girl tried to file a police complaint against her husband for abandonment after she “failed a virginity test”.
On May 22, the girl, who is preparing to get into the police force, married a 25-year-old man from Nashik. This is his second marriage and both belong to the Kanajarbhat community which has two sects – Dera Sachha and Khandpith. This community has its own ‘constitution’ which they follow rigorously.
Placing a high value on virginity in women, members of the caste panchayat wait outside after the wedding, while the couple has sex on a plain white cloth. This is supposedly a ‘test’ to prove that the woman is a virgin.
In the girl’s case, her husband said that she had not bled after sex and rejected her as his wife. The marriage was summarily invalidated, despite the girl’s pleas that she was, in fact, a virgin and that her lack of bleeding could be due to the vigorous exercise she went through in preparation for the police force. Her husband and inlaws also allegedly took away all her jewellery. The next day, she and her mother tried to file a police complaint. But, her father intervened, locked them in the house and took away the girl’s mobile phone.
Even more alarmingly, when Mirror tried to talk the girl through activists who are working to help her, she not only refused out of fear of the caste panchayat, but, according to her, they have proposed a second test upon which her marriage depends. She will be given a metre of cloth, to be tied either to the upper or lower portion of her body. She must then run naked with this cloth and caste panchayat male representatives will chase her, throwing balls of hot flour on her body. She has rejected the proposal.
Said Krishna Chandgude, who works with the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) as an anti-caste panchayat crusader, “Advocate Ranjana Gavande and I went to the house and spoke to the girl and her parents. We tried to convince her father to file a police complaint, but he is afraid of the caste panchayat. Now, we are trying to meet the members of the panchayat and convince them to stop this feudal anti-constitutional act.”
Chandgude added, “Earlier, we had successfully stopped the virginity tests conducted by the Vaidu caste panchayat. We have been in constant dialogue with the Kanjarabhat caste panchayat, too, but in vain. Police are scared to take suo-motu action against them because there are no official complaints. We hope this case will prove to be the ice-breaker.”
Gavande said, “Conducting any kind of virginity test post or pre-marriage is insulting to the concern woman. The caste panchayat agreed to the man being married twice, which is a welcome move. Why, then, are they making a fuss over a nonissue like virginity?”
Avinash Patil, working president of MANS, told Mirror, “Maharashtra is the first state to pass a law against social boycott and illogical justice meted out by such panchayats – the Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016. The law is awaiting the president’s signature. If it is implemented on time, such rituals will be prohibited.”
Shiv Sena party leader Neelam Gorhe told Mirror, “This is mental and physical cruelty against the woman. Action can be taken against this even under current laws. We need more awareness to ensure cases do not occur.”