Virginity and Government Payoffs
In Madhya Pradesh, the second largest state in India and home to over 75 million people, the government takes sharing the wealth to new levels. In the tribal district of Betul in the Hardu village of Chicholi block, the state government under a social welfare scheme called Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana sponsors a mass marriage ceremony to ensure poor women without dowries marry. Part of the draw includes a government-provided wedding gift of 15,000 rupees, which amounts to a $256 payment. Under the contract, couples from "economically weaker sections" receive items like a mangalsutra, a bicycle, some utensils, and clothing.
Despite the big payoff, things must be pretty rough in Hardu village because, in order to qualify for the $256 wedding gift, under government order, the women recently had to first undergo a virginity/pregnancy test. Why anything other than a virginity test would be necessary is a mystery. Obviously, pregnant women are not virgins, so if you fail the virginity test, why bother with the pregnancy test?
Nonetheless, minutes before the ceremony was due to start, while waiting in line to get married, 400 women were herded over to a nearby government school where two district health workers were assigned the public service job of inspecting genitals to see if the ladies remained uncorrupted. As suspected, nine pregnant welfare cheats were attempting to fraudulently dupe the government out of the wedding gift.
Although the criteria are different, the situation in India proves that government involvement in the sex lives of its citizens is an international phenomenon.
In India a bride's virginity is highly prized and pre-marital sex is forbidden. The Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojna sponsors weddings and then, if the bride has never had sex, endows the new couples with their government-sanctioned gift items/15,000-rupee reward.
In America, it's quite the opposite; the government not only encourages premarital sex, it practically pays you to indulge in it. Sexually active American women who are single, and especially those who are single and pregnant, receive more government gifts than women who preserve their virginity and wait until marriage before having sex.
In America the government also provides free birth control and abortions and establishes an open-ended government gifting system that facilitates a woman's sexual escapades for life.
In Betul, some people were offended that the government workers spent the afternoon confirming the maidenhood of 400 aspiring wives. That's why the Betul district collector, Rajest Prasad Mishra, said "I have given the orders to probe the complaints on alleged virginity and pregnancy tests conducted on would-be-brides." Not for nothing, but couldn't Mr. Mishra come up with another word besides "probe" to explain his plans to look into grievances concerning the "alleged virginity and pregnancy tests?"
Mr. Mishra wasn't the only person upset about the pre-marriage probing; the chairperson of the Indian National Commission for Women, Girija Vyas, was also appalled. Ms. Vyas said, "Such a shameful act where girls had to reportedly undergo tests to prove their chastity to avail the government's financial aid were sinful and could not be tolerated in a sane society."
Apparently, numbers of women didn't mind. They submitted to the look-see, and those with child were disqualified while the remainder, after passing the test, smoothed out their saris, got back in line, draped a garland, and left with a husband and $256 worth of household items.
Based on comments, female empowerment advocate Girja would probably like it better in America. In America, no one ever gets a virginity test, although they do get pregnancy tests, and whether they pass or fail, young girls still qualify for morning after-pills, free contraceptives, and if need be, a government-funded abortion.
Unlike the Hardu village, things are much more civilized in America. In America, shameful behavior is applauded and virginity is ridiculed. American society is so insane that government financial aid is bestowed upon the sinful and chastity "could not be tolerated." In fact, young women proudly go to Capitol Hill to beg for free contraceptives and boast that $3,000 per year in birth control isn't enough to keep them properly outfitted for premarital sex.
In the end, the tribal custom of the government checking out the goods prior to a mass wedding may seem peculiar to Americans. After all, why should government generosity be associated with intimate issues like virginity and pregnancy?
However, in an upside-down kind of way, the Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana custom isn't all that different from a government who demonstrates its benevolence by subsidizing the sex lives of millions of Americans by providing free contraception and abortion on the national level. In India if you're not sexually active before marriage, the government pays you; in America if you are sexually active before marriage, the government pays you.
So, although in America the health workers aren't inspecting female genitalia, the sex lives of the wedded versus the unwedded certainly seem to be the measure of the government's gifting decisions.
Jeannie hosts a blog at www.jeannie-ology.com