The word “virgin” must be removed from Muslim marriage certificates in Bangladesh, the country’s top court has said, a landmark verdict after campaigners challenged the “humiliating and discriminatory” term.
Under the South Asian country’s Muslim marriage laws, a bride has to select one of three options on the certificate – whether she is a Kumari (virgin), a widow or divorced.
In a brief verdict on Sunday, the nation’s High Court ordered the government to remove the term and replace it with “unmarried”, Deputy Attorney General Amit Talukder told AFP news agency.
The court is expected to publish its full verdict by October, with the changes to the certificate likely to come into effect then.
Rights groups had long criticised the term – used in marriage certificates since they were introduced in 1961 – saying it breaches the privacy of the woman getting married.
‘Against right to privacy’
“It is a landmark verdict,” Aynun Nahar Siddiqua, a lawyer for the groups which in 2014 filed the case challenging the term, told AFP on Monday.
Siddiqua said the case dated back to the 2014 filing of a writ petition to change in the form provided under the 1974 Bangladesh Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act.
“It’s a ruling that gives us the belief that we can fight and create more changes for women in the future,” Siddiqua, of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), told Reuters news agency.
“We filed a writ petition because asking whether someone’s a virgin or not is against the person’s right to privacy.”
The judgment also ordered authorities to introduce the options “unmarried, widower or divorced” for the groom on the certificate.
No one from the government was available to comment about the change or when it was to take effect.
Mohammad Ali Akbar Sarker, a Muslim marriage registrar from Dhaka, told Reuters that registrars like him were waiting for the Ministry of Law and Justice 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. I guess I won’t be asked that question any more,” said Sarker.
Bangladesh is the world’s third-largest Muslim majority nation and nearly 90 percent of its 168 million population are Muslims.