Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Virginity Tests in India? No Way to Cram for this Exam

Ever heard of a virginity test? This blog post requires a bit of background information, so here it is as quickly as possible… In India, mass marriages are a pretty common occurrence. Basically, a lot of unwed couples show up and get married in exchange for a state-awarded dowry that amounts to about $132 USD. The vast majority of women participating in the ceremonies are from poor families.

Mass marriages became very popular in India after the traditional dowry system, wherein the woman’s family would give the man a large marriage gift in exchange for marrying the daughter, was outlawed in the 1980s. (Despite being outlawed, this undoubtedly still occurs in certain areas of India.) Mass marriages are popular for their inexpensiveness and their simplicity.

According to BBC, last month in Shahdol, women arrived to participate in the ceremony only to allegedly find that they had to first submit to a virginity test. During a virginity test, a female doctor performs a thorough physical examination to determine whether or not the young woman is a virgin. If the doctor determines that the woman is not a virgin, then she is not given a badge to participate in the ceremony.

The Indian National Commission for Women is greatly distressed by the alleged virginity tests, and they are collecting information from individuals who witnessed or participated in the virginity tests. The senior administration officials in Shahdol deny that any virginity tests took place before the ceremony.

No one really cares about the man’s virginity, but the woman is devalued if she has engaged in any type of sex before marriage. Double standards much? This makes me angry on so many levels… I cannot help but think of a rape survivor being told that she cannot participate in the mass marriage ceremony. We cannot sit quietly and allow women anywhere to be subjected to such treatment; we must speak up. Seriously, it seems like marriage causes trouble everywhere it goes.

Feel free to contact campusteam@feminist.org with any questions or concerns.
Photo courtesy of www.flickr.com

1 comment:

Trixie said...

These tests happen all over the world, usually outside the law.

It's totally maddening because, aside from the violation of a woman's privacy, there is really no way a doctor can tell if a woman is a virgin. The hymen is an ever-changing membrane that comes in many shapes and sizes.

It's one way to medicalize the control of female sexuality, and from my own research, many doctors do it reluctantly knowing the tests are meaningless.

In my blog on virginity, I've written about several incidents of virginity testing around the world, all of it sexist and largely bogus.