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Sinners or saints

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The Virginity Test - why subject a woman to violation after she has already been violated?

Since the awful events of December 16, rape has been on my mind as I imagine it has been on the mind of every Indian woman. Living in New York I could only follow this via the internet and so I read everything I could get my hands on. I didn't think anything could horrify me more than the details of the case itself, until I read - in a completely unrelated article - about something called a 'two-finger test'.

Now call me old-fashioned but I always thought the two-finger test was a young couple getting to base three. I was wrong. The two-finger test is in fact a test wherein a 'medical professional' inserts two fingers in to the rape victims' vagina in order to determine whether or not the woman even has a case, and the decision is based on the laxity of the vaginal walls! It is safe to assume that a tight fit is more deserving of justice, and any slackness is proof, not just of loose musculature, but of loose moral aptitude as well - if you read between the lines of that medical report this is what you will see: She was a big ho-bag who had it coming.

After I finished vomiting I realized I had a few questions. What is the gold standard for vagina size? Is this a one-size-fits-all type of deal? What of women who have endured childbirth? Or middle age for that matter? How many two-finger tests does a 'medical professional' have to have administered before he/she becomes an expert? And finally - are we crazy enough to allow this to continue?

The fact that a woman has to be violated after she was violated just to prove that she was violated makes me feel like we are living in the Dark Ages and in fact we may well be because the two-finger test has another name - The Virginity Test. In the good old days (before rapes were invented) many a young girl was forced to submit to this just so her husband could be assured of a woman of virtue. And clearly things haven't changed much, except now instead of checking to make sure you are a virgin pre-marriage, we check to make sure you were a virgin pre-rape.

It is truly laughable that in 2013 a woman's virginity is still used as a test of whether or not she is decent, honorable and worthy of our respect.

While I have long since ceased to be a virgin myself I remember the day that I became conscious of my virginity. I was 15, and a close friend of mine had just had sex for the first time. She was busy describing the whole experience to me in the kind of detail that teenage girls do and I sat there gaping at her with rapt attention. At the time she was 16 and he was 17. She had felt no pain and had no bleeding - which was news to me because up until then I had been given to believe that sex would kill me unless performed within the holy bonds of matrimony yet here was my friend alive and well. Sure it had been a little uncomfortable, but the overall experience, as reported by her had been neutral at best (she had not had an orgasm) and awkward at worst (two teenagers maneuvering a condom for the first time - you do the math).

As she talked it dawned on me that my friend had lost her virginity, that I still had mine, and that nothing had changed. We were still the same people. She hadn't grown horns or turned to prostitution and I certainly didn't have a halo floating above my head. We were the same two girls who were always late getting to hockey practice but now she no longer had a hymen.

I started to wonder - how important was my hymen really? I mean it wasn't a particularly useful or visible body part, like say a foot. If I lost my foot everyone would notice, and I would not be able to wear Nike High-Tops. If I lost my virginity nobody would notice AND I could continue to wear Nike High-Tops. My virginity brought precious little to the table, it sat there doing nothing yet losing it was made into such a big deal. Like it was even something you could actually lose in the first place. OMG! I lost my virginity! How careless of me, it's the second time this week! Give me a break. When I finished up with school I joined Sophia College in Mumbai. This decision led my usually laid back extended family to provide an opinion. One male member informed my mother that it was a huge mistake because the girls there were 'fast' and I would in all likelihood join the ranks. At the other end of the spectrum, another male relative thought I would be so influenced by the women of the cloth who ran the place that I would become a nun! And that is where the problem lies. Indian women don't grow up to be doctors or journalists, or comedians even - nope, we girls have two options, or at least two that matter - we can either be a sinner or a saint because as a woman there is no in-between.

Vaz is a New York-based comedian and the writer and performer of the one-woman show 'Unladylike: The Pitfalls of Propriety'. www. radvaz. com

Reader's opinion (2)

Gautam Nandi NandiFeb 16th, 2013 at 12:30 PM

So very liberating !!

Anand DhageJan 27th, 2013 at 18:43 PM

I think a grown up person with a right brought up or not, certainly has a right to live the life s/he likes, be it a prostitute / gigolo or in a church. However, all should live within the boundaries of the society one lives in. Pre-marital sex in western societies is accepted but not yet in India.

 
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