An unsettling report tells the truly horrifying story of the mandatory “virginity tests” that women of the Kanjarbhat community in Maharashtra are subjected to after marriage.
Priyanka Tamaichekar, a Pune resident whose brother spoke out about the practice, describes the ritual to The Indian Express. She says that community elders would remove all sharp implements and glass bangles from a sanitised hotel room soon after a new couple’s marriage, and inspect the sheets for drops of blood later to prove the bride’s “virginity”. If women came out of the humiliating and invasive experience with no blood on the sheets, they would automatically be deemed to have slept with other men, and punished or even beaten in response.
This ritual is in the news now because Priyanka’s brother, Vivek Tamaichekar, recently spoke out on social media about the mostly taboo subject. A Master’s student at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Vivek was engaged to a woman named Aishwarya Bhat, and felt that he didn’t want himself or his fiancé to endure the ritual. Tamaichekar was sure they would be supported by many more in the community, and started a WhatsApp group called ‘Stop the V Ritual’, to which he added others who would agree with their cause.
The group now has around 40 members, and is looking for ways to actively fight the practice. One member, Siddhant Indrekar, collected 33 signatures petitioning for the practice to be abolished, and submitted the petition to Deepak Sakore, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in the area.
It’s been reported that young Kanjarbhat women have complained to Shakuntala Bhat, head of the Maharashtra women’s chapter of the All India Kanjarbhat Association, about “men in schools and colleges […] waving white handkerchiefs stained with drops of red ink at them.” Clearly, not everyone is supportive of constructive discussion around finding ways to stop the practice.
It’s terrible that such a demeaning practice is in play till this day. But despite these strange oppositions manifesting in men waving red-stained handkerchiefs, many young people in the community are hopeful that they’ll be bring the practice to a halt soon by bringing attention to the issue, and say that “change was a long time coming”.