Hundreds of women in India are believed to have been forced to take virginity and pregnancy tests ahead of a mass marriage ceremony.
Witnesses say around 450 women had to undergo the testing in the district of Betul which was organised by the Madhya Pradesh government.
The Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojna wedding ceremony is paid for by the government and helps women from poor families to marry.
But according to the Times of India, women were made to have the tests allegedly on government orders because it believes women are taking part in the ceremony to receive gifts.
Nine women were reportedly found to be pregnant and banned from the ceremony.
But government officials deny virginity tests took place. They said the tests had been to ensure the women were not pregnant.
In India, a bride’s virginity is highly prized and pre-marital sex is frowned upon.
India’s National Commission for Women is now calling for the Madhya Pradesh government to explain itself.
Girija Vyas, chairperson of the Indian National Commission for Women, said: ‘Such a shameful act where girls had to reportedly undergo tests to prove their chastity to avail the government’s financial aid were sinful and could not be tolerated in a sane society.
Rajest Prasad Mishra, Betul district collector, added: ‘I have given the orders to probe the complaints on alleged virginity and pregnancy tests conducted on would-be-brides.’
In 2009, more than 150 women were allegedly tested on government orders.
Mass marriages, generally organised by social organisations, are common in India where the custom of dowry is still widespread.
Read more: DailyMail