Bangladesh – Word ‘Virgin’ Removed From Marriage Form


Photo Credits: Hindustan Times

In the world's 8th-most populous country, Bangladesh, under Muslim marriage and divorce laws, a bride has to select from one of three options on the certificate: kumari (which means virgin), widow or divorced. Grooms are not required to declare their marital status. Rights groups, three of which filed the petition against the term in 2014, have long described it as discriminatory and a breach of privacy for women getting married.

Now, women in Bangladesh are no longer required to declare if they are virgins on marriage registration forms, the country’s top court has said. In a woman’s rights victory on Sunday, the court ordered the government to remove the term and replace it with “unmarried”, said deputy attorney general Amit Talukder. "The judge agreed that it is a violation of women's privacy and fundamental rights," Siddiqua said about the term, which has been used on marriage certificates since 1961.

The judgement also ordered authorities to introduce the options “unmarried, widower or divorced” for the groom on the certificate. A full version of the verdict will only be released in mid-October and it is unclear whether Bangladesh's government will comply with the court's order.

"This is a historic decision," Bangladeshi lawyer and rights activist Nahar Kamrun told. "As far as our constitution is concerned, men and women are equal. But in practice, for example, these marriage forms, that is not the case." "In our country, women do not have the same status as men. This is a reminder for the policymakers — when they make any kind of laws or administrative rules — that men and women are equal."

Bangladesh also has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.  29% of girls get married before age 15 and 65% before the age of 18. In 2017, rights groups criticized Bangladeshi lawmakers for passing legislation that allowed girls under the age of 18 to be married off by their parents if it was in their "best interests."

Meanwhile, a local marriage registrar said he and his colleagues were now waiting for the authorities to officially inform them about the changes in the form.

"I have conducted many marriages in Dhaka and I have often been asked why men have the liberty to not disclose their status but women don't. I always told them this wasn't in my hands," registrar Mohammad Ali Akbar Sarker told Reuters.

"I guess I won't be asked that question anymore," he added.

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