I am involved in a new film based on the practice of virginity testing for new brides in India and elsewhere. It’s a procedure now banned by the UN, WHO and the UK government – but it still goes on – yes, even in Europe.
The director and co-writer of “Kori, the Purity Myth” Chinmay P Purohit says, “Virginity testing is a barbaric and traumatic practice still happening in 2023, not just in India but worldwide. These examinations (a condition of some arranged marriages) are a violation of women’s and girls’ fundamental human rights, causing physical, psychological and social consequences. These include anxiety, depression, PTSD and in extreme cases, women or girls may attempt suicide or be killed in the name of “honour”.

So, this is not the usual type of thing I write about. And to be honest, I didn’t know it was going on. So I hope I can do my bit to raise awareness. It’s also known as “the two finger test” which gives you an idea of how traumatising and degrading it is. The WHO also says it is only 10% effective at determining whether a girl has had sex – so – pointless as well as abusive.

The new film though, is “a romance, a family drama” according to the director, and the press are calling it a ‘social satire’. I am acting the role of a doctor offering virginity testing in the UK, plus surgery to ‘repair’ it (hymenoplasty). But to get people into cinemas, the movie has to be entertaining! And it features the huge Indian stars Akshay Oberoi, Poonam Dhillon and Raj Babbar, plus relative newcomer Khanak Budhiraja as the female lead.

I haven’t seen the whole film, so I’m not going to review it (yet) but I totally applaud the director’s motivation for raising awareness. The UN, the WHO and the UK Parliament have done their bit, they have their place. But to get the message out to a wider audience, the cinema-going audience, ordinary people, this medium is just as valid.

And cinema doesn’t necessarily have to be campaigning, polemical, documentary-style or preachy to have an impact. Think of ‘Bambi‘ (1942) – recreational hunters were so moved by the baby deer losing his mother that they soon abandoned their hobby, decreasing hunter numbers by 50%. After ‘Jaws‘ (1975) beach attendances dropped dramatically. So campaigning films dont all have to be like ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘ – although that is a great film (did I mention I interviewed the creator Al Gore when it came out? Sorry, bit of a name-drop there! 🙂

So, I am wishing it well, and looking forward to seeing how it’s received. Maybe pop along and see it? There are English subtitles.

Sarah Lockett

Sarah Lockett is a former BBC News / Sky News anchor who currently presents a variety of content for corporate clients and delivers media training.
She has presented on BBC News and Sky News, plus reported for Channel Four News, 5 News, Reuters and others.
She now hosts webinars and conferences, chairs corporate/academic panel discussions, hosts award ceremonies and events. She writes, presents and produces training videos, as well as voiceovers (both factual and drama/comedy). She has written two books and is also working as an actor.

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