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Bangladesh to Replace ‘Virgin’ With ‘Unmarried’ Before Bride’s Name in Muslim Marriage Certificate

Activists see the verdict as a ‘landmark’ win over a provision that violates the right to privacy and is discriminatory against women who want to get married.

by Pallavi Pundir
27 August 2019, 8:35am

The Bangladesh High Court has made a landmark ruling on Kabinnama, or the Muslim marriage deed, and its usage of ‘Kumari (Virgin) which was used before the name of the bride. On August 25, the top judicial body of the Muslim-majority country ruled that the word ‘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 but is colloquially referred to as 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, along with being 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 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 as well.

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