This article originally appeared on VICE India.
The Bangladesh High Court has made a landmark ruling on Kabinnama, or the Muslim marriage deed, and its usage of the world ‘Kumari (Virgin)’ which was placed before the name of the bride. On Aug. 25, the top judicial body of the Muslim-majority country ruled that ‘Kumari’ will not be used before the bride’s name in the Kabinnama, and will be replaced with ‘Unmarried’ instead.
Kumari is a widely used term in South Asian countries such as India, where it’s used in official documents and is colloquially used to describe someone who’s unmarried. In Bangladesh, the Muslim marriage certificate has always had three options of titles for brides: a Kumari, a widow, or divorced. But the court has ordered the authorities to make amendments to the Kabinnama forms in line with the directives.
The order came close on the heels of a petition filed in 2014 by local rights organisations called Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Nari Pakkho, and the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad. The petitioners had said that the provisions of Column 5 of Kabinnama violate the right to privacy and were discriminatory.
One of the petitioners and a lawyer, Aynun Nahar Siddiqua, told local newspaper The Daily Star that the Muslim marriage deed was introduced during the regime of Pakistan and hasn’t been amended despite the country gaining independence in 1971. Various rights groups have criticised the usage of the word Kumari since its introduction in 1961, calling it “humiliating and discriminatory” while violating the privacy of Muslim brides in the country.
The court will be publishing the full verdict by October, and the changes will come into effect in Bangladesh from then on. Along with the removal of ‘Kumari,' the amendment also includes the introduction of ‘Unmarried, widower, and divorced’ as prefix choices for grooms.
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