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Forced ‘virginity test’ on underage girls to defame priests of Lord Nataraja Temple, fake child marriage cases and more: Explosive revelations by Governor of Tamil Nadu

"Out of vengeance, government officers of the social welfare department lodged eight complaints of child marriage against the podhu dikshithars, that they were marrying their children underage, whereas there were no such marriages," Governor Ravi said.

The governor of Tamil Nadu, Ravindra Narayana Ravi, exposed the shocking truth about how minor girls were forced to undergo the two-finger test, also known as the virginity test, by the state administration in an effort to defame the podhu dikshithars, in an explosive interview with the Times of India. Pothu dikshithars are the hereditary priests and custodians of Sri Sabanayagar Temple, popularly known as Lord Nataraja Temple.

“Out of vengeance, government officers of the social welfare department lodged eight complaints of child marriage against the podhu dikshithars, that they were marrying their children underage, whereas there were no such marriages,” Governor Ravi said.

“Parents were arrested and put behind prisons. And the girls, sixth and seventh standard students, were forcibly taken from home to the hospitals and made to undergo ‘two-finger tests,’ virginity tests. Some of them tried to commit suicide,” he revealed and stated that he wrote a letter to the chief minister questioning the horrific ordeal.

Two-finger test and why it is problematic

In this procedure, two fingers are inserted into the rape victim’s vagina by a medical professional in an effort to ‘test the laxity of the vagina’ and determine if the hymen is ruptured. The test is frequently used to label rape victims as being habituated to sex.

The medical proof of prior sexual encounters is used to refute the rape allegation, either to imply that the victim lied about the rape, to suggest that the rape was not harmful, or to argue that the victim is morally odious and hence not entitled to justice.

The problematic test has been criticised around the world for its use.

In Egypt, the military acknowledged that they had subjected female protestors to virginity tests during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. They gave even more startling explanations for their conduct. An Egyptian general declared, “The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine.”

“These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tehrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs). We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place. None of them were (virgins),” he gloated.

When it was discovered that officials were making immigrant women undergo virginity tests at Heathrow Airport in 1979, there was a huge uproar. This was done to verify their claims that they were in the country to get married.

In fact, Evan Luard, then Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, had received a strong protest at the time from the Indian Deputy High Commissioner, Pascal Alan Nazareth, expressing that the Indian government was upset and wanted the practice outlawed.

Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has condemned this test. “The WHO handbook upholds the widely accepted medical view that ‘virginity tests’ are worthless. Health authorities worldwide should end the practice of ‘virginity testing’ in all cases and prohibit health workers from perpetuating this discriminatory and degrading practice,” pronounced Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.

“Despite the lack of evidence of medical utility and the potential harms, health professionals in multiple settings continue to practice virginity testing, including when assessing for sexual assault. health professionals must be better informed and medical and other textbooks updated to reflect current medical knowledge. Countries should review their policies and move towards banning of virginity testing,” a medical journal published in the USA concluded from their study.

“Guidelines and Protocols, Medico-legal care for survivors/victims of sexual violence” published by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has categorically prohibited this test. Furthermore, it unambiguously emphasises that the hymen’s condition is not a sign of sexual assault. Rape can still have occurred if the hymen is intact, and it might not have happened even if the hymen is not intact.

According to the Supreme Court, such tests are cruel and ought to be abolished. Two finger tests are like another assault on the victim, and the procedure should be discontinued, Justice Verma Committee advised after the Delhi gang-rape case in December 2013. In its guidelines, the Delhi Government admitted the necessity to eliminate the test in situations of sexual assault and recommended that victims be counselled by doctors instead.

The dubious conduct of the Tamil Nadu government

The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) wanted the governor to praise the government for the excellent management of temples. “The reason they cited was that they have recovered 3,000 plus acres of encroached land. That’s a good one. We know that more than 50,000 acres of land have been encroached and recovery is too small. Look at what happened in 2022 at the Chidambaram Nataraja temple, which is not under the HR and CE.”

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu manages and controls the temple administration within the state.

Regarding the speech that the state prepares, he observed that it typically discusses the policies and initiatives of the executive branch. “But the speech given to me was full of materials where it was neither policies nor programmes, but propaganda. They were inaccurate, they were lies. They said Tamil Nadu is a ‘haven of peace’ in terms of law and order.”

“I quoted some instances. In Tamil Nadu, from the very next day after the ban on PFI (Popular Front of India), a terrorist organisation, for five days, terror attacks continued, more than 50 bomb attacks on houses and vehicles and no action was taken,” he remarked.

On 28 September 2022, the Government of India declared PFI an illegal association and banned the organisation for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The government reasoned that the organisation was prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country and pointed to PFI’s connection with terror organisations like Students Islamic Movement of India, Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

DMK’s ideology is parochial and dead

The former bureaucrat slammed DMK and its governance model. “They wanted me to praise and endorse the Dravidian model of governance. First of all, there is no such model of governance.”

“It is only a political slogan, a desperate bid to sustain an expired ideology, an ideology that does not relish the idea of ‘Oru Bharatham, One India.’ An ideology that underplays the national freedom movement, seeks to erase from history and memory, the hundreds and thousands of freedom fighters from Tamil Nadu, those who gave their lives and everything and instead glorifies those who collaborated with the British,” he noted.

He attacked their ideology and asserted, “It is an ideology that rabidly enforces linguistic apartheid on the whole of the nation. No other Indian language is allowed entry into Tamil Nadu. So much so that if you read the recent Budget speech, the government is going to set up a central Kalaignar library with 3.”

“25 lakh books only in Tamil and English, no other language. It is an ideology that has created an ecosystem that fosters separatist sentiment. I don’t think anyone can expect me to endorse that. No, I will not, and I said I will not,” he stressed.

Secularism and Sanatan Dharma

He proclaimed that the interpretation of Indian secularism is devious and has been carried out by vested interest groups. “When the Constitution was being drafted, nobody thought there was a need for secularism to be introduced in the Constitution. But one member K T Shah raised the issue. The entire constituent assembly unanimously said secularism is a European concept where it was born out of the hostility between the Church and the State.”

He added, “Our secularism is equal respect to all. So, to say that our governors should not talk about religion, should not talk about dharma, is a wrong notion. And when we talk about equal respect for all, this is what Sanatana Dharma is. Why interpret it in terms of caste, or creed? These are mischievous distortions.”

DMK Files

“Since it was formally brought to my notice, due cognisance is being taken,” he responded when inquired about the BJP delegation’s appeal for a probe into DMK files. Bharatiya Janata Party’s Tamil Nadu chief K Annamalai has released DMK files, a series on corruption within the current state government. He has accused that DMK leaders’ assets were worth Rs 1.34 lakh crore as per his valuations and estimations.

He asked questions of the ruling party and laid out allegations of corruption against DMK leaders and their close relatives. The BJP leader charged DMK leaders Jagatratchagan, E V Velu, K N Nehru, Kanimozhi, Kalanidhi Maran, T R Baalu, Kalanithi Veerasamy, Duraimurugan, Kathir Anand, Arcot Veersamy, Kalanidhi Veersamy, and K Ponmudy among others of irregularities and discrepancies in assets.

He also complimented the citizens of the southern state.”From my experience with Tamil people, they are highly cultured, deeply spiritual, and exceedingly hospitable. When it comes to Tamil literature, I have limited knowledge. I started reading classic literature, Sangam literature, mostly through English translations. I was astounded by the depth of thought and richness of the literature,” he commented while lauding their literature.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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