India 'virgin test' claim dropped

By Faisal Mohammad Ali
BBC News, Delhi

Two women in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh who said they were forced to take virginity tests prior to a mass wedding have withdrawn their claim.

State authorities say the brides have retracted statements made to police.

The brides' complaints caused an outcry, with the National Commission for Women demanding an explanation.

State officials denied any virginity tests took place. They said the tests had been to ensure the women were not pregnant before the marriage ceremony.

In India, a bride's virginity is highly prized and pre-marital sex is frowned upon.

'No internal exam'

Local reports and witness accounts claimed that scores of women who took part in the state-run mass wedding in June had been forced by officials in the district of Shahdol to undergo a physical examination.

Shahdol district collector Neeraj Dubey told the BBC that the authorities had received statements prepared by lawyers acting on behalf of two of the women who were now dropping claims that they had been forced to undergo a physical examination to prove that they were not pregnant.

The pair were among nearly 150 girls who participated in Madhya Pradesh's government-funded mass marriage ceremony.

The tribal women originally alleged that they were told by officials they would receive 6,500 rupees ($134) if they took part in the wedding, but would need to allow themselves to be examined first.

The pair now say they were not made to undergo an "internal examination" and were only asked a few questions by a female doctor ahead of their marriages.

Reports at the time said women had to queue up before undergoing an extensive physical examination by a female doctor in order to take part in the wedding.


Madhya Pradesh's chief minister recently launched the special scheme to enable poorer women to receive financial assistance at the time of their weddings.

But although the scheme has been popular and is believed to have brought great political dividends to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state, there have been frequent reports of its misuse.

Some couples who were already married are alleged to have registered themselves under the scheme and re-married in the mass wedding ceremonies in order to get the money.

Authorities say that the few tests which were conducted were done to weed out fraudulent cases.

But women's rights groups say that the whole idea of a test conducted on would-be-brides is "very offensive" and that the authorities could easily have done background checks to establish whether the women were already married without making them publicly proclaim their chastity.

Meanwhile, a man from the state's Panna district has been arrested for allegedly eloping with an underage girl and marrying her in a mass marriage ceremony held recently.