Bangladesh No Longer Requires Brides to Declare If They’re Virgins on Muslim Marriage Licenses
Bangladesh is finally going to remove the word “virgin” from Muslim marriage certificates. The country’s High Court on Sunday reached the verdict when it ruled that kumari (virgin) cannot be used before the bride’s name in Kabinnama, that is, the Muslim marriage deed. Kumari will now be replaced by the word “unmarried,” Amit Talukder, the deputy attorney general of the High Court, told AFP, as reported by Dawn.
Under the country’s Muslim marriage laws — formulated before Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971 — a bride has to choose one of three options on the certificate to announce her status: whether she is a kumari (virgin), a widow or a divorceé. No such requirement of men exists.
The bench delivered the verdict on a writ petition filed in 2004 by rights organizations Nari Pakkho, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad and Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust. The petition challenged the legality of the requirement of using kumari before the bride’s name in the marriage certificate and argued that the practice was discriminatory and contradictory to the right to privacy. The Court had then asked the government to explain why the dated provision should not be declared illegal.
After holding a trial on the government’s explanation, the Court delivered the judgment on Sunday, observing that the existing practice was “humiliating and degrading,” according to local newspaper The Daily Star.
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The Court also ruled the words “married,” “unmarried,” “widower,” and “divorced” have to be mentioned before the groom’s name, as well as the bride’s name, in the Kabinnama form.
The Court is expected to publish its full verdict by October; it has ordered authorities to proceed with making the directed changes to the Kabinnana form and complete them by then.
This is stuff we’ve waited for, for decades at the very least. Another month’s worth of wait is entirely doable. The next step is removing ‘virgin’ from our social vocabulary completely. Disclosing whether or not someone is a virgin is not exactly a breach of privacy because it’s not a medical status one achieves after having had sex — it’s entirely a social construct created to police women’s sexuality. Just as there is no way to determine whether a man has had sex, there is no way to determine the same for a woman. That being said, whether or not someone has had sex is also not anyone’s business.
But for now, this shall do. Congratulations to Bangladesh on taking baby steps into a new feminist age towards gender equality.