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'Virgin' Category Scrubbed From Bangladeshi Marriages

High court says women can identify as 'unmarried'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2019 1:15 PM CDT
A Bangladeshi girl and a man dressed like bride and groom ride a horse during a procession to mark Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2010.   (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman)

(Newser) – Women in Bangladesh no longer need to declare if they are virgins before heading to the altar. The country's high court has ordered two major changes to marriage forms, which previously required women to choose one of three options to describe themselves: divorced, widowed, or the Bengali word "kumari," or virgin. Women's rights groups successfully argued the form was discriminatory, humiliating, and a breach of privacy, leading the court to swap "kumari" with "obibahita," which translates to "an unmarried woman," per the BBC.

A lawyer involved in the case says she hopes the "landmark verdict" will help advance women's rights in a country where young girls are often forced into arranged marriages. It "gives us the belief that we can fight and create more changes for women in the future," Aynun Nahar Siddiqua says, per Al Jazeera. The change to the 1974 Bangladesh Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act is likely to take effect in October, when the full verdict is published. Through a separate ruling, the court will also require grooms to declare whether they are unmarried, divorced, or widowed on forms for the first time. (Read more Bangladesh stories.)

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