Quest News

Kanjarbhat and their insistence of virginity tests for new brides

By http://www.bollywoodhungama.com [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hailey Scott, Commentary Editor, Diversity Editorial Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






In the western Indian state of Maharashtra, there is a community called Kanjarbhat. In this community, most women are forced to endure a “virginity test”, which determines whether or not they are pure or impure. This test requires the groom to take the bride into a hotel room to consummate the marriage on a white sheet. In other words, they have sex to see whether or not the bride is a virgin. If she bleeds, the family will celebrate her lack of premarital sex and she is labeled as “khara”, which translates to “pure”. If she doesn’t bleed, she is labeled as “khota” which translates to “spoiled”.

For some background, the Kanjarbhats are a tribe that migrated from Rajasthan to various parts of India, more than three centuries ago. The community is lead and governed by caste panchayats, or in other words, the elders. They are the ones keeping these customs alive. Sadly, these tests aren’t new. In fact, the “virginity tests” are a Kanjarbhat caste tradition or custom. This was only recently brought to light, because of the protests that started.

Aarefa Johari, a writer for Scroll.in, constructed an article about Priyanka Tamaichikar and her cousin, Vivek Tamaichikar. Vivek, a 28-year-old law graduate and a student of regulatory governance at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, is the mastermind behind the Whatsapp Kanjarbhat youth protest group called, Stop the V-Ritual.

According to Johari, three members of Stop the V-Ritual were attacked by members of the Kanjatbhat community. “The police have registered a First Information Report against five people, charging them with rioting, causing hurt, criminal intimidation and unlawful assembly. Four men were arrested but released on bail later”.

A huge task the group wants to accomplish is to have the police add the charges under the Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott Act, 2016. This act prohibits caste panchayats from boycotting and discriminating against any of the community members. Vivek Tamaichikar stated, “The caste panchayats are the root cause of all these rituals and social boycotts in our community”.

Of course, the caste panchayats had a response. According to Johari’s article, Mukesh Minekar, who happens to be a panchayat member and politician, stated, “It is the families that do it as an ancient tradition, the panchayat is not involved… These youngsters [from Stop the V-Ritual] are spoiling the name and honor of the community and our women with their lies…”By http://www.bollywoodhungama.com [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly enough, the panchayats published a law book in 2000 titled, Sahansmal Jaat Panchayat Kayda-Kanoon. This book holds details of all the rules and regulations regarding the rituals of the community. Minekar says that the panchayats are not involved but Aarefa Johari points out a significant rebuttal. It is stated in the article that, “In the section on wedding rituals, the book lays down that “gun jiti”, or character test, of the bride, must take place on the night of the wedding, in a lodge. But the bride and groom can be given up to three days to finish the ritual if they are unable to do it on the first night”.

Minekar can say that he and the rest of the caste panchayats are not involved, but the rules are there and defined AND written by the panchayats. Funny how much a little research can do. The panchayats completely involved, they also make money off of the tests. Johari brings up a 21-year-old art student and Stop the V-Ritual member, Siddhant Indrekar. Siddhant states, “Typically, after the wedding ceremony, the caste panchayat members sit in a circle with the families to discuss the price they will take for the virginity test”.

A lot of these women are being forced to perform the test. Most do it because of the fear of dishonoring their family and the fear of having to endure social boycott. Siddhant Indrekar also states that “Many young girls are not even aware that women do not necessarily bleed when they have sex for the first time”.

These women who are considered “khota” or “spoiled” are being boycotted and even beaten because of something they had no control over. Because of people being uneducated. In fact, most women don’t even bleed during their first time. Dr. Sara Patterson-Brown, the publisher of the British Medical Journal in 1998, found that 63% of the women had not experienced bleeding during the first time they had sex.

That’s crazy. I think that while the fact that women are being beaten is tragic, what is incredibly troubling is that a lack of education immediately pushes an entire culture to act out against a woman who did not react to sex the same way others have. To refer to these women as ‘spoiled’ is not only disrespectful to brides and those to be, but to the daughters and granddaughters and to the other female youth. It’s almost as if the incentive to marry and the experience marriage is supposed to promise instead becomes a pass or fail, pure or spoiled”

— Anonymous 12th Grader

I took the liberty of asking students around Don Lugo about whether or not they were informed of this tribe, custom, and protest. If they said no, I gave a brief rundown, then I asked the students their opinions. After asking 20 students, I found out that only 3 knew about the protest because of it trending on Twitter, but knew nothing of the tribe or the ritual. They all were shocked to find out, to say the least.

Priyanka Tamaichikar, Vivek Tamaichikar and the other members of Stop the V-Ritual are working hard to try to get their message across. Women are being mistreated for something they can not control, and most of the time being tested without consent. The custom or ritual may have been going on for centuries, but things are different now. The educated youth of the Kanjarbhat tribe are making a stand, and in my opinion, we all should stand with them.

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
"WE HEAR YOU!"
Kanjarbhat and their insistence of virginity tests for new brides