MINISTER of State for Home Affairs Ranjit Patil on Wednesday extended support to members of the Kanjarbhat community, who have been creating awareness against the alleged practice of ‘virginity tests’ conducted on newlywed women from the community.
Members of the community who have protested against the practice have said they are being targeted for raising their voices. Some of them were allegedly beaten up in January, while the car of another member was damaged in Pune recently.
When the issue was raised by Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe in the state Legislative Council, Patil said protection would be provided to those who come forward with complaints about wrong practices such as “virginity tests.”
“Police will be directed to take suo motu action in such cases. Orders will be issued to all police stations to lodge offences against those who openly call for virginity tests. A meeting will be called… within a month and review meetings on the issue will be held every three months. In case of a social boycott, action will be taken as per the provisions of the Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act,” said Patil,
In December last year, The Indian Express had reported about a group of youths from the Kanjarbhat community, who had came together to form a WhatsApp group – ‘Stop the V-Ritual’. The group wanted to protest the unjust practices of their caste panchayat, such as the “virginity” test and “demanding money from the bride and groom to approve their marriage”.
Vivek Tamaichikar, a student at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai who had created the WhatsApp group, was present at the Council on Wednesday, along with fellow Kanjarbhat community members Krushna Indrekar and his wife Aruna, who have also protested against such practices.
“We appreciate the support extended to us by the government. We discussed issues like the apathy of policemen when we approached them with our complaints. Police had delayed action, saying the married couple and their family didn’t have any complaints. We are sure that virginity tests take place and it is obvious that the bride, groom and their families don’t complain because of pressure from the community… we believe police should use proper investigative methods… The minister has agreed to look into the matter and issue a government regulation soon,” said Tamaichikar.
Explaining how the ‘virginity tests’ work, members of the WhatsApp group say a newly-married couple from the Kanjarbhat community is allegedly taken to a hotel room. The groom is given a white bedsheet and is asked to use it while having sex. The girl is said to have passed the virginity test if the groom comes out with a bedsheet with blood stains. But, if the bedsheet has no blood stains, the ‘elders’ of the community blame the bride for having physical relations with a man in the past and “punish” her as per the laws laid down by the caste panchayat.
Siddhant Indrekar, a student who is also a member of the WhatsApp group, had filed a police complaint against the Kanjarbhat caste panchayat on November 25, 2017.
On January 21, some of the members of the group were allegedly beaten up by a group of about 40 persons from the community during a marriage at Bhat Nagar in Pimpri.
As per a police complaint lodged by Prashant Ankush Indrekar (25), a resident of Bhat Nagar in Yerwada, some youths from the community, including the brother of the bride, questioned them over their protests against ‘virginity tests’ and then beat them up.
On February 21, Krushna Indrekar’s car was damaged while he was attending a marriage function in Pune. A week earlier, Indrekar, who is an officer with the state’s law and judiciary department, had filed a police complaint against an alleged virginity test performed on a newlywed woman in his community.
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