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Kanjarbhat community youth gather force against the practice of virginity test

According to the young community members, presence or absence of blood on the bedsheet of a newly married couple after their first night decides whether the woman had sexual relations before or not.

pune Updated: Dec 25, 2017 17:28 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
kanjarbhat,community,virginity test
Young members of the Kanjarbhat community.(HT Photo)

A group of youngsters from the Kanjarbhat community have resolved to free their fellow community members of the regressive practice of subjecting woman to undergo virginity test on the wedding night.

The movement gained momentum after Vivek Tamaichikar, a student at Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), took to social media to talk about the issue. His Facebook post provided a platform for other members to voice their outrage.

“I wrote about the issue on Facebook and received a good response. So we made a Facebook group of the interested people which eventually turned into a WhatsApp group,” said Tamaichikar. It further gained importance for Vivek, who is a part of the community and is scheduled to get married in May 2018.

According to the young community members, presence or absence of blood on the bedsheet of a newly married couple after their first night decides whether the woman had sexual relations before or not.

A group of around 25 people on Sunday gathered at Sadhna Media Centre in Pune and shared tales of horror related to the virginity-test that the women of the community have to go through on their wedding night. Many of the youngsters were at the meeting against their family members’ will.

The meeting, organised by the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS), saw attendance of people from Pune, Mumbai and Kolhapur. Nandini Jadhav, Pune head of MANS urged the gathered youngsters to speak up against the issue.

When contacted, elders of the community, with a population of not more than 5,000 in Pune, denied the existence of the virginity-test.

“The custom is discontinued and nothing of that sort happens in the community anymore,” said Kavichand Pritamsingh Bhaat, one of the community leaders and former mayor of Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC). Hasan Malke, a prominent community leader was unavailable for a comment, while advocate Murchand Bhaat, another community leader, said he is out of station and refused to comment on the issue over the phone.

However, the elders’ statements came days after Siddhant Bhat, a community member and cousin of Vivek and had approached the police with a recorded video which showed after his community elders demanding Rs.10,000 to ‘permit’ a virginity test and allow a particular marriage in the community. When the police declined to register a case, Siddhant approached Deepak Sakore, deputy commissioner of police, zone-4 of Pune.

In yet another incident cited by Krishna Indrekar, who works in the state charity commissioner’s office in Mumbai, a family suggested that since the groom was exhausted after days-long wedding rituals, his brother could do him the favour of taking his wife through the virginity test.

The grandson of a local Kanjarbhat community panchayat elder, who was also present at the meeting and requested anonymity, questioned the practice. While narrating the incident he had witnessed, the grandson said, “I remember this one time when a panchayat was in motion, people were sitting around the room and a water container was placed in the middle of the room. I entered the room with my footwear on and was scorned upon and yelled at. These were the same people who were insulting a woman while chewing gutkha.”

“When Vivek told me about this, I laughed it off until I realised how serious it was. I could not believe it. When I told my senior, she too could not believe it either. This is against a person’s right to privacy. Moreover, a woman’s hymen can rupture due to various reasons,” said Dr Shruti Jaiswal, who is a gynecologist herself. Jaiswal was one of the participants at the meeting.

In another incident, Priyanka Tamaichikar, who has spoken on media platforms before, claimed that she was threatened and shamed by the community elders after she made her opinion against the custom public. “We are boycotted by the society. No one in the community speaks with us. But we have supporters double, even triple the number of oppressors. I’m not going to back down.”

First Published: Dec 25, 2017 17:08 IST