Virginity testing, also known as the “two-finger” or “hymen” test, is a common practice in India. Despite its widespread use, virginity testing has been widely criticized by medical professionals and human rights organizations as being unscientific, unethical, and violative of an individual’s privacy and autonomy. In India, this practice has been used in various contexts, including as a condition of marriage, to determine the character of rape victims, and as a tool to determine the “virtue” of women. This paper provides an overview of virginity testing in India, including its history, current practices, and the ethical and legal implications of the practice. The paper argues that virginity testing is a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and also highlights the physical and psychological harm caused by the test. The paper concludes with a critique of virginity testing, arguing that it should be abolished as it is violative of an individual’s rights and dignity.
Virginity, Virginity test, Two-finger test, female, hymen, violation of rights
In India, where virginity is closely associated with purity, good reputation, character, and the proper upbringing of females, virginity continues to be a major source of interest. But boys are not subject to this virginity requirement. While having sex before being married may not be regarded as particularly offensive to males, it can be extremely damaging to a girl’s honor and dignity because it is believed that girls are born with “sealed” vaginas. India, being in the 21st century, still holds on to such stigmas where families, while looking for a girl to marry their sons, want a girl who is a virgin, i.e., has never had sexual intercourse in her life. If she is a virgin, she is said to be pure, and if she is not, her character is determined by this; her morals and dignity are questioned.
But now the question arises: how does someone determine if a girl is a virgin or not? Let’s dive into that.
As a result, the concept of “virginity testing,” also known as “two finger” or “hymen” testing, was introduced, which involves inspecting a woman’s genitalia to determine if her hymen is intact, and if so, she is considered a virgin.
Virginity testing is performed for a variety of reasons, including as a requirement for marriage or to establish the purity and morality of a woman. The practice of conducting virginity tests on women is a clear violation of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The test involves examining the hymen of a woman to determine if she is a virgin or not. This practice is deeply rooted in patriarchal norms and reinforces gender-based discrimination. Moreover, it is medically unsound, as the condition of the hymen is not always accurate.
This paper is descriptive in nature and the research is based on secondary sources for the deep analysis of virginity tests in India. Secondary sources of information are newspapers, journals, related articles and other research papers such as ‘Virginity Testing’ by Humanitarian Response, ‘Eliminating Virginity testing: An Interagency statement’ by WHO, ‘Virginity testing’ by Dr. Upendra Nath Tiwari, Poornima Shukla, Mridul Bhatt, etc., used for the research.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The virginity test or two-finger test has been a topic of much debate and discussion for many years. This practice reinforces gender-based discrimination, which is deeply rooted in patriarchal standards which have been followed by many tribes for the past 400 years to determine if a female is a virgin or not. It is declared derogatory of an individual’s privacy and freedom and unethical, but still, in many parts of the world, such practices are followed. It has been repeatedly declared unconstitutional by Indian courts, and that it amounts to a massive violation of human rights. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has declared it regressive, misogynistic, and violates women’s fundamental human rights and dignity.
HOW VIRGINITY TEST BEGUN IN INDIA
Virginity test is conducted or performed to determine if a girl is a virgin or not, i.e., to determine that the girl has never engaged in, or been subjected to, sexual intercourse. The Kanjarbhat community, which is also known as “Sansi” or “Kanjar” in North India, the Kanjarbhats are a denotified tribe that migrated from Rajasthan to parts of western Maharashtra and Gujarat. The community is governed by its own set of codified rules and a caste panchayat. As part of the Kanjarbhat caste ritual, a bride is put to a “character test” on the wedding night. The husband and wife consummate their marriage on a white cloth at a lodge right after getting married. Family members often remain outside the lodge and keep knocking to ask if everything is going well. If the girl bleeds, she passes the test. They declare, “Maal Khara hai,” which means she is “pure,” and if she does not, it is assumed she has had premarital sex, and they say, “Maal khota hai,” meaning she is “spoiled goods,” and the marriage can be annulled.
Failure to pass this test will result in serious consequences such as a social boycott, heavy fines, physical punishment, torture, and many other things, as well as the annulment of the marriage.
TWO – FINGER OR HYMEN TESTING
The two-finger or hymen test is another name for the virginity test. The idea of virginity tests has long been a source of heated debate and discussion in India. The test is conducted by medical practitioners to determine how loose a woman’s vaginal muscles are and whether or not her hymen can be stretched, a doctor would typically perform a physical examination of the vagina. Two fingers are inserted into the lady’s vagina during this test, and the ease with which the fingers fit is regarded to be a reliable sign of whether or not the woman has been sexually active. Thus, if the fingers slide in easily the woman is presumed to be sexually active and if the fingers fail to penetrate or find difficulty in penetrating, then it is presumed that she has her hymen intact, which is proof of her being a virgin.
The practice of conducting virginity tests on women is a clear violation of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The test involves examining the hymen of a woman to determine if she is a virgin or not. The procedure is often used to categorise rape victims as “habituated to sex.” The medical evidence of prior relationships is used to refute rape allegations, either to imply that a victim lied about the rape, to imply that the rape was not harmful, or to imply that the victim is morally repugnant and so not entitled to justice. The Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) has determined that the second-year medical students Forensic Medicine and Toxicology program will no longer cover “signs of virginity.” This indicates that in the future, medical students won’t need to study the contentious “two-finger test” or “virginity test”. An MUHS curriculum panel unanimously agreed with the decision following a petition claiming that “signs of virginity” had no scientific validity and did not aid in the investigation of sexual assault.
STOP V- RITUAL MOVEMENT
Young, educated Kanjarbhats who dared to speak up against the virginity test and strict caste panchayats started the struggle against the v ceremony. Most people follow this tradition or ritual for the sake of maintaining their parents’ honor and form the fear of social boycott and many young girls have no idea that women do not necessarily bleed when they engage in sexual intercourse for the first time. Many people disagree with the virginity test ceremony because they see it as a bride’s moral character. This degrading procedure of a virginity test is very immoral and unscientific because women don’t always bleed when they have their first intercourse. Supporters of Stop the V-Ritual have experienced social boycott situations. It is a painful fact that no young woman or couple from the Kanjarbhat group has reported the virginity test rite to the authorities so far and no police complaint has ever been made. According to Stop the V-Ritual activists, this is partly why it has been so difficult to take legal action against the virginity tests and the caste panchayats. But, now-a-days, a large number of young, recently wed Kanjarbhat couples are against the virginity test tradition. Several young people from the Kanjarbhat community have come together to protest against the caste panchayat’s immoral and illegal actions, such as demanding large sums of money in exchange for approving a couple’s engagement and performing a “virginity test” on the bride the night before her wedding. Stop V-Ritual activists have formed a group on social media and invited people to join it in an effort to fight these “traditional” practices with the use of technology. This youthful activist organization is working on a number of fronts to promote societal awareness and end the V-ritual practice which brought a lot of the change in the society.
CONSEQUENCES OF VIRGINITY TEST
Psychological effect/harm – The pain caused due to forcibly conducting a virginity test that leads to women or girl emotional pain, fear as well; also feel humiliation, self-worthlessness. Long term psychological effects include depression, severe emotional distress, anxiety etc.
Physical effect/harm – The outcome of the virginity test may cause physical effect on the woman or girl. In some of the cases women causes self-harm as committed suicide to these tests or the consequences thereof.
Social effect/harm- Virginity is usually connected to noxious traditions that disclose girls or women to stained & perceived humiliation & worthless to themselves. In some of the cases women’s or girls are boycotted by their families & by their communities as well; even murdered because they have had sexual intercourse before their marriage
ETHICAL AND LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF VIRGINITY TESTING
Despite its widespread use, virginity testing has been widely criticized at several levels world-wide.. The harmful practice of virginity testing is a social, cultural, and political issue, and its elimination will require a comprehensive societal response supported by the public health community and health professionals.
Virginity test is dishonorable, offending and is a matter of violating privacy rights of an individual and the test has been criticized by numerous medical organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO states that virginity testing has no medical or scientific basis and that it constitutes a form of violence against women. In addition, virginity testing can have a damaging impact on a woman’s mental health, as it can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment.
In addition to being a violation of the human rights of women and girls, these examinations can exacerbate the suffering after rape and replicate the initial act of sexual assault, which can result in reliving the trauma and making the victim again a victim. The negative short- and long-term physical, psychological, and social effects of this practice are felt by many women. This encompasses post-traumatic stress disorder, sadness, and anxiety. In severe situations, women or girls may murder themselves or attempt suicide for the sake of “honor.” A social, cultural, and theological construct, the idea of “virginity” represents prejudice against women and girls on the basis of gender. All social communities should stop and forbid this gruesome, distressing, and immoral behavior.
VIOLATION OF A WOMAN’S RIGHTS BY VIRGINITY TESTS
“Gradually the scope of Legal Rights of broadened, & now the Right to life has come to mean the Right to Enjoy Life-The Right to be let alone”
Article 21 of the Constitution of India says that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”
Allowing Medical Examination of a woman for her virginity amounts to violation of her Right to Privacy & Personal Liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
These tests are unfair and go against the right to equality guaranteed by Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, due to the fact that the practice sometimes results in the murder, suicide, or boycott of women by their families or communities.
The term “life” has been used by courts to refer to a variety of concepts, including dignity, freedom, privacy, and more. An important requirement for a fulfilling existence is privacy. Since there is no definition of “privacy” in the Constitution and it is open to judicial interpretation, it is currently considered a fundamental right under Article 21. Physical secrecy, physiological integrity, psychological independence, and confidentiality are all aspects of privacy.
The rights of women are violated by these tests, and they must be safeguarded against sexism. The term “virginity test” has its roots entirely in the patriarchal system of violence against women and gender inequality. It also violates the Indian Constitution’s Article 14 right to equality.
Virginity test leads to a violation of Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution. According to Article 14, Equality before the law the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and Art 15 stated as “Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.” This Golden Triangle of Fundamental Rights comprises all those facets of life that contribute to making a man’s life meaningful, full, and worthwhile, and it guarantees our very existence, without which we cannot survive as humans.
Virginity testing violates the rights of women as granted under Articles 1, 3, 5, 7 and 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as well.
JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENT RELATED TO VIRGINITY TEST
According to the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (1985), rape survivors are entitled to legal aid that does not traumatize them or violate their physical or mental integrity and dignity. The Court said that the examination of rape survivors by medical staff and the use of medical evidence collected during the trial should be done only to determine whether the survivor was raped or not and not to determine her virginity. The two-finger test is an unscientific practice that focuses on the patriarchal obsession with the purity of women.
The Supreme Court recently said once again that those who use the “two-finger test” to confirm rape accusations would be held accountable for their actions, and ordered the Union administration to make sure that survivors are no longer made to undergo it.The court noted that the test was based on the “incorrect” assumption that “a sexually active woman cannot be raped.” The court also denied the lack of scientific basis for the test.
“This court has time and again deprecated the use of two finger test in cases alleging rape and sexual assault. The so-called test has no scientific basis. It instead re-victimizes and re-traumatizes women. The two finger test must not be conducted..,” the bench said. The bench also called the practice “patriarchal and sexist.”
The Supreme Court of India in Lilu@Rajesh and Anr v. State of Haryana, observed that the two-finger test violates the rights of rape survivors to privacy, physical and mental integrity, and dignity and declared it unconstitutional. Therefore, even if the result is positive, this test cannot automatically lead to the inference of consent. Rape victims have a right to legal action that doesn’t traumatize them or infringe on their physical or mental integrity and dignity, according to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of 1966 and the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power of 1985. Additionally, they have a right to medical interventions that respect their right to informed consent. Health should be the top priority when dealing with gender-based violence, and medical treatments shouldn’t be performed in a way that’s cruel, inhuman, or demeaning to others. Such assistance must be made available to victims of sexual assault by the state. There should be appropriate safeguards in place to protect their safety and no arbitrary or unlawful invasion of their privacy. In 2014, the Union Health Ministry issued guidelines for medico-legal procedures for survivors of sexual violence as well.
 The need of the hour is to change the societal mindset and to raise awareness about the harmful effects of virginity testing, so women can live free from discrimination and violence. The practice should be abolished as it perpetuates harmful cultural and societal beliefs and has a damaging impact on women’s mental and physical well-being. The Indian government should take proactive steps to educate the public about the unscientific nature of virginity testing and to promote the protection of women’s rights and dignity. Government should start campaigns and spread awareness about such misconduct. The virginity test has no scientific basis and cannot establish prior vaginal penetration, which is something that health professionals and their associations should be aware of. Additionally, they ought to be aware of the negative effects of virginity testing on one’s health and human rights, and they ought to never engage in or encourage it. Women’s grievance cell, helpline number should be active in the various regions to ban virginity test practice. Still, the ideas of dignity and privacy are reserved for books. Virginity will be frowned upon in this culture unless its members adopt a patriarchal mentality. In higher education in the subjects, value education and sex education topics like virginity tests and related ethical value-based lessons should be given.
In conclusion, virginity testing is a widely practiced act in India; there is no legal ban on the practice. However, the Indian government has stated that the practice is not scientifically valid and has no place in a modern society. To start, a broken hymen is not exactly a great indicator of premarital sex. It can, however, break during everyday activities and at a young age. Further, it’s like a bandwagon for the patriarchal ideologies that force a newlywed bride to give proof of virginity while the groom gets a free pass. The virginity test adds to the toxic idea that sex is something a man takes and a woman gives. We will never truly respect women’s choices until we accept that a woman does not lose anything as soon as she has sex, that a woman doesn’t become characterless if she has sex before marriage, or that she loses her honor or dignity. Virginity tests shouldn’t be used to judge a girl’s sexual history or moral character.
The practice of virginity tests is a clear violation of the Indian Constitution and is also medically unsound. The test reinforces patriarchal norms and reinforces gender-based discrimination. The government should educate the public about the unsound nature of the test and promote gender equality. It is only through such measures that society can progress towards a more just and equal future.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar National Law University, Sonipat
Gursharan Bhalla,‘Khara Maal’: How Women Still Have To Prove Their Virginity On A White Bedsheet In Rajasthan , India Times, (2022)
 Parth MN, The humiliating ‘virginity tests’ for brides, a reality in India’s Kanjarbhat community, Indian Express (2018)
 Vageshwari Deswal, Virginity Test: Why the two finger test is unscientific, illogical and illegal, Times of India (2019)
 Aarefa Johari, Meet the young activists fighting to end virginity tests for brides among Maharashtra’s Kanjarbhats, Scroll.in (2018)
 Dr. Upendra Nath Tiwari, Poornima Shukla, Mridul Bhatt, Virginity testing, Vol. 7, Ijariie, 977, 979-980 (2021)
 Surjit Singh Thind v. Kanwaljit Kaur, AIR 2003 PH 353.
 INDIA CONSITUTION art. 14
 INDIA CONSITUTION art. 15
 The wire staff, Woman’s Testimony Doesn’t Depend on Her Sexual History’: SC Decries ‘Two-Finger’ Test, The wire (2022)
 Lilu@Rajesh and anr v. State of Haryana (2013) 14 SCC 643.
you can remove the pointers
amazingly written, kudos