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90-year-old raises voice against the virginity test in Kanjarbhat community

The mother of 12 children said she too was forced to undergo same ordeal after her wedding.

pune Updated: Feb 03, 2018 18:00 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,virginity,Kanjarbhat
Janabai Indrekar.(HT PHOTO)

Janabai Indrekar, a 90-year-old woman from the Kanjarbhat community, has spoken out against the community’s draconian custom of a virginity test for newly married women. Describing her own ordeal as a 14-year-old bride, Janabai recollected her marriage to a 32-year-old man and the subsequent Jat (caste) panchayat meeting where she was declared to be khara maal (good product).

The mother of 12 children said she too was forced to undergo same ordeal after her wedding.

“Once we were married, I was very scared to go with my husband, but everyone convinced me to go with him. After the first night together, two women from the man’s side and two women from our side came in the room and checked the bedsheets. They made me take a bath and asked my husband if I was ‘pure’. We had to sit in front of the panchayat and he (husband) had to repeat in front of the Jat panchayat thrice that I was a ‘khara maal’. Then the panch got paid and told both of us to stay good,” said Indrekar.

According to Indrekar, if the newly wed woman failed the virginity test, her in-laws used to treat her poorly. “Regardless of whether the woman cleared or failed, they were asked to stay with the husband, but those who could not pass the test were meted out ill-treatment by in-laws. I have seen this happen. Now some of these women have had good marriages and are mothers to healthy children,” Janabai said.

If the women did not pass the virginity test, they had to welcome the wrath of her husband and his family, the nonagenarian reminisced. “Mother-in-law, husband, other in-laws, everyone would say things to her. Women have to hear all of it and keep mum,” Janabai said.

Krishna Indrekar, the 51-year-old son of Janabai has stood by the protesting youth and has worked against the custom. “Krishna Indrekar is my son and I’m going to stand by his side,” said Janabai. “Now women are educated. They started going to school. The young generation does not like this custom and it should be done away with now,” she declared.

Krishna Indrekar, who has been fighting for the cause for several years, said that upon failure to prove her virginity, the woman has to face an assault from her own family. The jat panchayat also demands more money if the girl fails the test, according to Indrekar, who works in the state charity commissioner’s office in Mumbai.

The youth of Kanjarbhat community have spoken against the practice and raised a protest against it. They have also approached the city police. On January 22, three protesting youth were assaulted by members of the community during a marriage ceremony. Dr Neelam Gorhe, a member of state legislative council has written to chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis against police inaction in the case filed by the youth who were assaulted.

Virginity test: How it happens

- After wedding night, four women check the sheets

- Two women from girl’s side, two from husband’s

- Bride then takes a bath and comes before Jat panchayat

- Husband then testifies if his wife is khara maal (good product)

- If he does testify that she was a virgin, panchayat tells couple to be good and takes a payment

- If bride “fails” virginity test she remains married to husband but is now subject to torture and abuse from both sides of family

First Published: Feb 03, 2018 17:57 IST