Maharashtra to Outlaw Virginity Testing
The absurdly unscientific and sexually violent test of determining a woman’s virginity — a practice many communities of India carry out before or immediately after marriage proceedings — will soon be a punishable offense in Maharashtra, Minister of State for Home Dr. Ranjit Patil told a scrum of reporters Wednesday.
Acknowledging the test to be a form of sexual assault, Patil promised to issue a circular that declares virginity testing outlawed, according to The Print.
Reports of virginity testing are aplenty in this country, the most recent ones being out of the Kanjarbhat community residing mainly in Maharashtra. For the past year, a campaign to eliminate this practice, called ‘Stop The V-Ritual’ has gained traction, headed by a young member of the Kanjarbhat community, Vivek Tamaichikar.
Upon failing the test, the outcome of which is determined by whether the bride bled on a white sheet of cloth placed under the consummating couple on the wedding night, a woman is beaten for not being a virgin, according to reports. The chieftains of the community could also levy heavy fines on her for failing to bleed, and her husband could ask for remuneration for deigning to accept a tainted woman, Vice reports.
Virginity testing, also called hymen, “two-finger” or per vaginal exam, has no basis in science, and in simple terms, is utter hogwash. Just as there is no way to determine if a man is a virgin, no test can prove that a woman has had sexual intercourse. The premise of the test is that if a woman sports an intact hymen — a membrane covering the entrance to a woman’s vagina — then she is a virgin, thus, pure and honorable enough to get married.
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First of all, the idea that virginity equals purity for a woman is in itself a regressive patriarchal concept steeped in misogyny, and should not be entertained in the 21st century. Secondly, it is a proven fact that a woman’s hymen can easily break during a variety of activities — from masturbation, to horse or bike riding, to other forms of exercise.
“The examination can be painful, humiliating and traumatic,” according to a joint statement released by the World Health Organisation, UN Human Rights and UN Women. The test is “a violation of the human rights of girls and women, and can be detrimental to women’s and girls’ physical, psychological and social well-being.”
The groups further assert that using the virginity test in non-marital instances, such as in the assessment of a rape survivor, can further traumatize the woman, “causing revictimization.” It has also been known to affect judicial proceedings, oftentimes skewing the legal recourse in favor of the perpetrator.
Virginity has long been paraded around as a mythical creature towering over women’s vaginas, stripping them of their sexual agency and dignity. Abolishing tests to determine it is the first step toward erasing the oppressive myth of its value from our society altogether.
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