Virginity test of tribal women for state-sponsored marriage unacceptable: AIPWA

By News Desk

New Delhi: While strongly condemning the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh government’s move for virginity test as precondition for tribal women to avail the benefits of state mass wedding scheme, the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) has demanded the government to rollback the order and give compensation to the women who were subjected to humiliating virginity tests.

“The BJP Government of Madhya Pradesh seems to think that if poor tribal women are to avail of social welfare benefits, they must allow the Government to violate their privacy and even their bodies. 151 women in Shahdol who were beneficiaries of the MP Government’s Mukhyamantri Kanyadaan Yojana (a mass wedding programme for poor women, including widowed, divorced or abandoned women, who cannot afford the cost of a marriage ceremony) were told that they must subject to humiliating tests of ‘virginity’– or else they would not be allowed to avail of the benefits of the mass wedding scheme,” AIPWA said.

“What gives any Government the right to impose a rule that a woman can get married only if she is a ‘virgin’? Just because these women are poor, must their bodies be violated in the name of ‘medical examination’?” asked Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary, AIPWA.

Once again, the BJP and its government machinery have proved their deep anti-woman character. We are well aware of the BJP and Sangh Parivar’s tendency to act as a self-appointed cop for women’s morality – attacking women who wear jeans, visit pubs, make friends with men, or marry outside their community. Now, in the name of ‘social welfare’ for poor women, they are imposing and enforcing a patriarchal cultural norm of virginity before marriage, she further said.

Most of the beneficiaries of the scheme were tribal women. Among adivasis, there is greater sexual freedom for women; sex before marriage is not considered taboo among many adivasi communities. The virginity test is also an attempt by the BJP State Government to impose its brand of feudal, Brahminical culture on tribal women in the name of ‘Kanyadaan’.

“The Government’s excuse for the tests was that women had to be tested for virginity and pregnancy before marriage because poor women might try to ‘cheat’ since there was money involved. This is not only an insult to women; it is also an insult to the poor. It means that the poor have no right to self-respect and dignity; when they seek to avail of the Government’s meager social welfare benefits, they will be perceived as ‘cheats’ or thieves. Even their bodies are not their own: the Government can invade their privacy and conduct tests at its sweet will,” Krishnan said.

AIPWA has demanded that the women who were subjected to humiliating virginity tests receive compensation, and the officials responsible for this violation of women’s dignity be severely punished.