In a crackdown on the reported cases of a ‘virginity test’ being performed on newly-wed women of the Kanjarbhat community, the state government on Wednesday said it would soon take steps to ensure that such complaints are treated as cases of sexual harassment.
Minister of State for Home Ranjit Patil assured a group of activists from the Kanjarbhat community, who have been campaigning against this practice, that the state government would issue a notification directing police stations to register a case of sexual harassment in case a woman comes with a complaint of having been forced to take the ‘virginity test’.
The minister also told the campaigners that a district-wise review of the action taken against caste panchayats, in cases of social boycott, will be conducted by the protection of civil rights (PCR) committees of the police.
The assurances came after Patil’s meeting with a group of Kanjarbhat community activists and members of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti. Shiv Sena spokesperson and MLC Neelam Gorhe was also present at the meeting, which was attended by officials of home and law departments.
“Virginity test is a kind of sexual harassment of newly-married woman. If the victim in a virginity test incident is ready to file a complaint, it will be considered a case of sexual harassment and action will be taken accordingly by the investigation agency. 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.
Some young members of the Kanjarbhat community have been campaigning through a WhatsApp group against the practice, in which a newly-married woman is allegedly asked to provide proof of her virginity on the wedding night.
Cops ready to take action, but no ‘victims’ have come forward
While the state government has finally responded to repeated calls from the Kanjarbhat community activists to initiate action to prevent virginity tests, there is little that the authorities can do till a victim actually registers a complaint. Till now, no victim has come forward to make a formal complaint with police or any other law enforcement agency. On the other hand, some women of the community had marched on the streets last year, protesting against the activists..
The meeting, held at Mantralaya in Mumbai, also included a discussion on the incidents related to alleged atrocities carried out by caste panchayats. Gorhe said the issue of social boycotts and harassment by caste panchayats are reported frequently, and these panchayats are often found encouraging wrong practices in their community. “Some stern steps are needed to prevent these,” she said.
“PCR cells should take a review of the complaints being filed with the police in every district regarding different types of social boycotts…. Activists fighting against caste panchayats should be included in the PCR at every district. In the meeting, it was also decided that Krushna Indrekar (a government employee and one of the activists of the Kanjarbhat community leading the campaign against virginity tests) should be appointed in the legal service authority. A memorandum in this regard was given to minister Ranjit Patil today,” said Gorhe.
The Indian Express had first reported about the movement started by members of ‘Stop the V-Ritual’ Whatsapp group against “virginity tests” after one of them, Siddhant Dashrath Indrekar (21), had complained against the caste panchayat at the Vishrantwadi police station on November 25, 2017. Following that, a series of incidents involving attacks on members of the WhatsApp group and damage caused to their vehicles was reported. Even last month, Indrekar had alleged that there had been two cases of educated married couples from the Kanjarbhat community being forced by the caste panchayat to undergo a virginity test.