Virginity tests to be treated as sexual assault, made punishable offense in Maharashtra

Virginity tests to be treated as sexual assault, made punishable offense in Maharashtra
The state is set to outlaw the custom whereby a newly-wed woman has to prove that she was a virgin before marriage (Representational Image)

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday said that forcing women to undergo virginity test will be considered as a form of sexual assault and made a punishable offence.

At present, certain communities in the state follow a custom whereby a newly-wed woman has to prove that she was a virgin before marriage.

On Wednesday, Minister of State for Home, Ranjeet Patil, met representatives of NGOs working towards the abolishment of the practice.

“Virginity test will be considered a form of sexual assault…after consultations with the Law and Judiciary department, a circular will be issued declaring it a punishable offence,” the minister told reporters later.

Apart from taking steps to ensure that such complaints are treated as cases of sexual harassment, Patil also said his department will hold a bi-monthly review and ensure low pendency of such cases in the courts.

Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe, who was also part of the delegation that met the Minister, said that if the virginity test victim is ready to file a complaint, it will be considered a case of sexual harassment and action will be taken accordingly.

“Complaints in this regard can be filed with the concerned deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) or crime against women cells. The legal service authority will provide essential help to the victims. This issue was discussed in the meeting today. The minister has agreed to issue a notification in this regard,” Gorhe told The Indian Express.

Among others, the demeaning custom is allegedly followed in the Kanjarbhat community. However, amid growing resistance to the practice, a group of youths from the same community have launched an online campaign against it.

National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma had also written to Maharashtra’s Women & Child Welfare Minister Pankaja Gopinath Munde last week raising concerns over the practice after media reports highlighted the issue.

“The practice is regressive, misogynistic and in violation of basic human rights and dignity… I, therefore, urge your kind intervention in the matter and request that you may please ensure that the persons guilty of perpetrating such discriminatory, misogynistic practices may be appropriately punished so as to prevent such occurrences in the future,” the letter read.

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