The 151 girls (not pictured) who "participated" in a mass wedding conducted by the Madhya Pradesh government on 26th June had been forced to undergo virginity tests before getting married.

The mass wedding in Shahdol was part of a welfare measure the Mukhyamantri Kanyadaan Yojna (Chief Minister's 'giving away the bride' programme) started by the state in April 2006.

Under the move, single adult women from poor families - whether they be unmarried, widowed, divorced or abandoned - who have found themselves prospective spouses but can't afford the wedding expenses, are married off in groups and paid a fixed sum of Rs 6500.

"At first I refused to go through the test," said a Baiga tribal girl, who was among the brides at Shahdol." But an officer told me I would not be allowed inside the marriage hall unless the gynaecologist declared me eligible. And the only way I could be eligible was by going through the test." She added: "The gynegologist manually examined."

"I've ordered an enquiry," Neeraj Dubey, Shahdol district collector told Hindustan Times. But, he adds, "the test was a precautionary measure." He recalled: "Last year one of the brides delivered a baby even as the marriage ceremony was on. Since there is money involved, many  women, try to take advantage."

[via Hindustan Times]