Mumbai: The Maharashtra government today assured the state Legislative Council that caste panchayats of the Kanjarbhat community will face action if they compel newly married women to undergo a ‘virginity test’. Action will also be taken if the panchayat members are found to be interfering in cases of rape and sexual harassment, said Ranjit Patil, Minister of State for Home. The minister was responding to a calling attention motion tabled by Shiv Sena’s Neelam Gorhe.
The custom in the Kanjarbhat community where newly married women are expected to undergo a test to prove that they were virgin before the marriage hurts women’s dignity, Gorhe said. She also alleged that these panchayats — traditional representative bodies of the community — also try and settle cases of rape and sexual harassment outside the court.
“Cases should be registered against them (panchayat members). Conducting a virginity test and announcing its result publicly is a violation of woman’s right to privacy. Her virginity status should not be disclosed to public,” Gorhe said. Minister Patil said police would be asked to register a criminal case if a panchayat forces a woman to undergo a virginity test. “The government will also take action if caste panchayat members are found interfering in cases of rape and sexual harassment,” he added.
“We will hold a meeting of caste panchayats and social activists next month to create awareness about the issue,” Patil said.