Wednesday, June 26, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Why ‘kumari’ needs to go

For an official document to require a woman declare her sexual history is a gross violation of privacy

Update : 18 May 2024, 01:42 PM

The ostensibly steady progression of women empowerment has long been touted as one of the key indicators of Bangladesh’s overall state of social progress, given that women have historically been oppressed due to our culture’s deep-seated patriarchal beliefs.

And while that is certainly true when discussing women’s increasing involvement in the mainstream economy, clearly there is a lot that still needs to be done in our nation to truly achieve any sense of gender parity regarding rights and social standing.

To that end, it is at once disheartening and frustrating to know that the government has seemingly chosen to stay silent regarding the order from the High Court all the way back in 2019 to remove the word “kumari” from the marriage registration form, according to a recent Daily Star report.

For context, the word “kumari” translates to “virgin” and for an official document to require a woman to essentially declare her sexual history is a gross violation of a citizen’s right to privacy, but the government’s baffling recalcitrance regarding the High Court’s order to remove this term -- and replace it with “unmarried” -- threatens to completely undermine the years of progress it has achieved in regards to the empowerment of women.

It is heartening to know that, the government’s silence on this issue notwithstanding, that our legal system, despite its numerous faults, stands by women in realizing the harm of defamatory terms being included in official documents poses.

The continued inclusion of the word kumari in official documents once again exposes that women empowerment in Bangladesh usually comes with a glaring asterisk. If Bangladesh wants to be seen as a truly egalitarian society, the only way is for it to actually be one -- getting rid of retrograde attitudes towards women at an official level would be a good start, to that end.

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