If you aren’t a virgin, you can’t be mama’s girl. “Uncle” Shivraj’s kanya, that is.
The Madhya Pradesh administration has begun conducting virginity and pregnancy tests on would-be brides before solemnising a “kanyadan”, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s pet mass-marriage scheme that helps girls from poor families tie the knot at government expense.
The decision to conduct the tests before the weddings — whose popularity has earned Chauhan the nickname mama (maternal uncle) — came after an embarrassing moment in Shahdol district when a bride developed labour pains minutes before exchange of garlands.
More surprising was that the groom and the would-be in-laws didn’t throw a fit.
The organisers immediately stopped the mass wedding and ordered pregnancy tests on the 152 brides who had assembled for the June 30 kanyadan. The tests revealed 14 of them were “expecting”.
Sources in the chief minister’s office said it was an “aberration”, a “belated” bid by some married couples to get their hands on the Rs 5,000 in cash the newly-weds get as part of the scheme that also includes a free community meal and other marriage-related expenses.
But residents said some “middlemen”, in connivance with local authorities, were misusing the scheme, under which 90,000 marriages have already taken place. They said the middlemen were producing recently married couples and then taking a “commission” from them.
Faced with allegations of solemnising “fake marriages”, the local administration started conducting the virginity and pregnancy tests.
But mama’s move to weed out already-married nieces has kicked up a storm.
In tribal-dominated Shahdol, 350km from Bhopal, many Adivasis and rights activists are up in arms over the decision to conduct the tests.
“We are aghast,” said Umpa Rai, a member of the state women’s commission. “Surely, there are better and more discreet ways of checking the antecedents of those already married. These tests are an insult to womanhood.”
Rai’s colleague Amita Chapra, who toured Shahdol, said the local Bega tribals were furious. “Even if assuming that some are misusing the scheme, it does not mean that others can be subjected to humiliation.” She said the state women’s commission would take up the matter with Chauhan.
Shahdol collector Neeraj Debe feigned ignorance. He said he had asked his subordinates and district medical authorities to look into reported incidents of virginity and pregnancy tests.