Rajasthani girl speaks over bedsheet virginity test: The Persisting Stigma


The Sansi community of Bhilwara in Rajasthan still believes in Kukdi Pratha, a virginity test to check the character and purity of a newlywed bride. Many young women become victims of domestic violence and social insults when failed to stain their bedsheets red.

What is Kukdi Pratha?

According to this, when a woman gets married, in the first intercourse with her husband, she should bleed and stain the bedsheet red. Many women who experience intercourse for the first time have their hymen broken. Hymen is a protective layer in the vaginal canal of a woman’s body. So if a woman does not bleed, it is assumed that she has committed intercourse earlier and gets condemned as an immoral woman.

Medical evidence

Gynaecologists and other medical experts from India and across the globe have clearly stated that a hymen could get broken even without intercourse, through exercising or swimming. It is also possible that the hymen did not break in the first intercourse itself. So bedsheet stain test is far from an accurate measure of virginity.

Psychosocial Impact of Kukdi Pratha

Women who fail to pass this inaccurate virginity test face domestic torture like violence from husbands and mothers-in-law. Cases of beating from hot wooden sticks of Chula are also spoken out. The social status is disregarded with the label of immoral women and low character. A Khap panchayat, who is in no way associated with the government tortures woman to take their lover’s name to grab the opportunity of having money in the name of tax.

Further, a water and fire test was conducted for women who failed the bed virginity test. Such “agni jal pareeksha” test can be fatal with tasks like staying in water till a man covers 100 steps or keeping a hot pan on the palm of the woman with Peepal leaves. With such consequences, it is also said that women have started accusing men of false rape allegations to cover up for their failure of the virginity test.

Why such rituals are still practised?

With society getting rationalised, it is unfortunate to see such beliefs and practices in Indian communities even with the declining path to patriarchy.

  1. Social Acceptance: Most of the women who promote this ritual have faith in it and they act as the bearers of such custom. Older women of the Sansi community openly state that Kukdi Pratha should not be abolished. It is necessary to check up on the sanctity of a woman. Other members of this community also stand for this virginity test, stating that a good woman to nurture kids must be pure. It is a belief that only a virgin woman can be a good wife and mother. Since most of the women cleared the test, no one raised a voice against it.
  2. Patriarchal mindset: Indian society has been patriarchal for centuries. But the change has been brought upon with development. Various metropolitan cities or even sub-urban areas have a declining approach to patriarchy. Certain rural communities are still the victim of patriarchal practices. Sansi community is one of them where a woman and her complete identity are decided based on a bedsheet stain which has no medical and empirical evidence ever.
  3. The fear of change in the community: Many such communities manifest rigidity for any change in their mindset. These get justified to protect their culture even if they harm basic human rights. With an upbringing where the identity of an individual is directly linked to its community and its ritual for significant years of life, it gets more complicated to accept a change for betterment. While exhibiting a sense of belongingness with culture and community is a part of every human, an open-mindedness must be believed to accept any inhuman or anti-feminist practice, even though it has existed for centuries.
  4. The evolution of patriarchy: Patriarchy is a social-psychological concept that has existed for ages. When humans started to settle in a place and perform agriculture, physical tasks were more prominent. Since men have more strength physically for such tasks, the foundation of patriarchy was laid down here. The irony is the physical strength that a woman manifests while holding a child in her womb to delivering it is often considered as a mere simple and obvious task of womanhood. Since physical demand continued for centuries, the roots of patriarchy dug deeper and societal structures with the mentality of people got aligned with patriarchy.
  5. Indian communities and Patriarchy: It was not long ago when the struggle for rights as basic as expression and education was fought and continues as an ongoing part in some far-reaching rural centres of India. We have come far along to abolishing aristocracies like Sati pratha and female foeticide, still, cases of Kukdi Pratha hold dominance in certain Indian communities.

At the crux of it, unquestioned patriarchy has always been a curse to society. With disturbing cases of Kukdi Pratha still being practised, a step further can be taken to cross-check any everyday habit or thought that we have and remain unquestioned because of its social acceptance due to patriarchy.

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