Was 'maal khara'? Two men asked about their brides' virginity
Last week, two newly-wed grooms testified for their wives' virginity in Kanjarbhat community in Pune, a DNA report claims. The men were asked about their 'experience' with their wives on the first night and after the panchayat was convinced with their explanation, the women were accepted in the community. The incident, that took place in Koregaon Park, got limelight after activist Krishna Indrekar alerted the authorities.
A day after the wedding, the panchayat asked the grooms to talk about their wives. One was asked if he 'had any difficulty crossing the seven wells' while the other was questioned if the maal was'khara (pure) or khota (impure). Talking about it, Indrekar said, "After a mass wedding at Ichalkaranji, four couples were subjected to test." He revealed couples of Koregaon were well-educated.
The Kanjarbhat community is a denotified tribe which migrated from Rajasthan and settled in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The community follows its own set of rules including a mandatory virginity test for brides. After the wedding, the couple consummates their marriage on a white cloth. The next day the cloth is shown to the elders who bless the couple.
If the white cloth has blood stains, the elders say maal is khara, meaning the woman was virgin before the wedding. In absence of stains, they declare the maal is khota and the woman is asked to reveal whom she had physical relation with. Apart from being humiliated, the woman is also tortured by her in-laws and in some cases, her family is ostracized.
Notably, Indrekar himself opposed to this test when he got married. As a result, he and his wife Aruna were not welcomed in the community. Reportedly, the Kanjarbhat community did away with the bedsheet test after it garnered a lot of media attention and led to a crackdown by authorities. But the members have found out other covert ways to ascertain a bride's virginity.
The Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti, which was founded by late Narendra Dabholkar, has been working relentlessly to spread awareness against this draconian practice. The organization urges women who have been forced to undergo these tests to speak up as this is the only way to abolish it. The activists claim police laxity is a reason why the tests continue to flourish.