A top court in Bangladesh has ordered the country’s government to scrap the practice of making women declare the status of their virginity during the issuance of marriage certificates.

Before now, the South Asian country’s marriage laws for all Muslim mandate spinsters to check a box that seeks to discern between women who are virgins, widows, or were previously married but later got divorced.

The country’s top court, in a landmark verdict delivered on Sunday, ruled that the word “Kumari” (virgin) be swapped with “unmarried” while two other options on the form  — “widow” and “divorced” — are to remain unchanged.

Amid claims by campaigners who described the long-standing practice as humiliating and discriminatory, the court ruled that grooms would also now have to disclose if they are unmarried, divorced, or a widower.

Aynun Siddiqua, a lawyer involved in the case, said it dated back to 2014 when a written petition was filed requesting a change to the fields in the form as specified under the 1974 Bangladesh Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act.

“It is a landmark verdict. It’s a ruling that gives us the belief that we can fight and create more changes for women in the future,” she said.

The verdict, which borders mostly on virginity status disclosure, is coming after a long-drawn legal battle by human rights groups and campaigners advocating for the “protection of women from potential humiliation”.



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