Indian Brides Allegedly Forced to Take Virginity Tests

Brides are reportedly being forced to take virginity and pregnancy tests before they are married in state-sponsored ceremonies in India.

A fight has broken out in the central state of Madhya Pradesh after some 151 girls were ordered to take the tests.

The results showed 15 girls were pregnant.

These brides were then excluded from a mass ceremony in Shahdol.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan denied they had carried out "virginity tests" and said the girls had simply undergone "procedural medical examinations."

However, his argument has not convinced the state opposition or women's rights groups, who have expressed outrage.

Witnesses said the women had to queue up before undergoing an extensive physical examination by a female doctor.

One of the brides, who did not want to be identified, said: "At first I refused to go through with the test, but an officer told me I would not be allowed inside the marriage hall unless the doctor declared me eligible.

"The only way I could be eligible was by taking test ...The doctor manually examined me."

Mass weddings paid for by the state are part of a welfare scheme started in 2006.

And in the last three years, 88,460 such marriages have been conducted in Madhya Pradesh.

Under the scheme, unmarried, widowed, divorced or abandoned women from poor families who have found a prospective spouse are married in groups and paid the equivalent of $137.

However, poverty and in some cases greed has led some already-married couples to pretend to take part and collect the money.

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