Indian brides subjected to virginity tests

June 10, 2013 at 4:58 PM

NEW DELHI, June 10 (UPI) -- Indian officials said hundreds of women involved in a mass wedding were forced to undergo virginity and pregnancy tests. Nine of the weddings were called off.

The incident took place in Betul, India, where between 200 and 350 couples, many of them members of a tribe in the region, were to be wed in a mass ceremony.

A 29-year-old woman who was to be married told The Times of India two female officials prodded her abdomen and pronounced her pregnant, voided the nuptials and forced the couple to return wedding gifts they'd received.

"Pregnancy before marriage is not unusual among tribals," said Geeta Ramlal Uike, a government emissary to the tribes in the region. "In these communities, boys and girls often elope and then decide to formalize their relationship later with no questions asked. So pregnancy does not carry the usual stigma here."

Government officials have ordered an investigation into the incident but a local official questioned their sincerity. Tribal leader Samajwadi Jan Parishad told the Press Trust of India it was likely that officials investigating the incident had knowledge of the order to test the women in the first place.

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