Mumbai: Kanjarbhat community youth have taken up cudgels to bring about a change in the ghastly ritual of virginity test among women. Community youth, educationists and activists were speaking regarding the issue in a seminar titled ‘Community Struggles for Virginity Test Ban in the Current National Context’ conducted at Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Vivek Tamaichikar, who started the protests against the test and founder of social media group ‘Stop the V-ritual’, said disrespect to women is not restricted to one community.
“Wherever I live or work is my community. Such practices should not only stop in Kanjarbhat community but universally to further empower women,” he said. The Kanjarbhat community, which has a population of 50,000 in Maharashtra, is a denotified tribe, nationally identified as ‘bhantu’.
Mukta Dabholkar, daughter of slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar who headed Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, said women are wrongfully linked to their character if they don’t clear the virginity test. In September 2000, the Akhil Bharatiya Sanhasamal Kanjarbhat Samaj Sangh, a group of community leaders, put down the society’s caste panchayat laws and regulations in a booklet. The booklet specifies fees that the caste panchayat should take while solving disputes, performing marriages or other rituals, as well as the punishments and penalties in case of inter-caste marriages, adultery and incest.
Dr Amita Dhanda, academician and activist and also a Professor of Law, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, said keeping a watch on women so that they don’t engage in sexual encounters before the marriage is not freedom. “The virginity test is not only confined up to that particular day, it has a much bigger negative impact. They also forbid women from education on the fear that she may ‘slip’ if she attends college,” she stated.
In the community, if the girl fails the virginity test, she has to face boycott, public humiliation, and at times even physical harm.