Bangladesh’s top court has ruled that women in the Muslim-majority country will no longer have to declare whether they are virgins on their marriage registration forms — a decision women’s rights groups say is a step in the right direction toward gender equality.
The high court ruled Sunday that “virgin” – or “kumari” in Bengali – will be replaced with “unmarried.”
The two other options on the form, “divorced” and “widow,” will remain.
Women’s rights groups have long argued that the word “virgin,” which has been used on marriage certificates since 1961, was humiliating, restrictive and discriminatory.
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Lawyers for the group who filed the case in 2014 also argued the word breached a woman’s privacy and fundamental rights.
Under Bangladesh’s laws, a bride, sometimes a very young girl, had to select from one of three options on the form.
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Separately, the high court also ruled that grooms will now have to disclose their marital status, according to the BBC.
A full version of the verdict is expected to be released sometime in mid-October.
Bangladeshi lawyer and civil rights activist Nahar Kumrun hailed the decision as an “historic” one, telling CNN: “As far as our constitution is concerned, men and women are equal, but in practice, for example, in these marriage forms, that is not the case.”
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Registrar Mohammad Ali Akbar Sarker told Reuters he is waiting for the Ministry of Law and Justice to officially inform him about the changes to the form.
“I have conducted many marriages in Dhaka and I have often been asked why men have the liberty to not disclose their status but women don’t,” he said. “I always told them this wasn’t in my hands.”