Doc who fought the ‘two-finger’ test says struggle not over | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Doc who fought the ‘two-finger’ test says struggle not over

ByPayal Gwalani
Nov 01, 2022 12:24 AM IST

Perturbed about the intimate areas of rape survivors being touched without their consent in medical tests, Sewagram-based Dr Indrajit Khandekar (44) had set out to fight against what he calls an unscientific, inhumane, and discriminatory practice way back in 2010

Mumbai: In a significant move, the Supreme Court on Monday held that all those who conducted the ‘two-finger test’ or virginity test on sexual assault survivors would be held guilty of misconduct and penalised. The order was one more watershed moment in the struggle of a small-town doctor against the regressive medical test that caused trauma to rape survivors.

As a young forensic expert who joined the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagaram, in 2007, Dr Khandekar had to interact with several rape victims as part of his job (HT Photo)
As a young forensic expert who joined the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagaram, in 2007, Dr Khandekar had to interact with several rape victims as part of his job (HT Photo)

Perturbed about the intimate areas of rape survivors being touched without their consent in medical tests, Sewagram-based Dr Indrajit Khandekar (44) had set out to fight against what he calls an unscientific, inhumane, and discriminatory practice way back in 2010. Twelve years later, with the SC order, he feels his fight against the two-finger test is on its last leg if not totally over. “The apex court should also direct the subordinate courts to not order such tests,” he said.

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As a young forensic expert who joined the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagaram, in 2007, Dr Khandekar had to interact with several rape victims as part of his job. This interaction was often in the form of conducting a two-finger test, mandated by the law and medical textbooks as a way of ascertaining whether the survivor was habituated to sexual activity. The women, he says, were often as young as 19.

The virginity test entails a doctor first examining the hymen for injury, blood and discharge and the size of its opening. Vaginal laxity is then checked by inserting two fingers into the vagina. “Rape survivors are already traumatised by what has happened with them. Another unwanted, unconsented touch adds to their suffering,” said Dr Khandekar.

The medico started researching the topic, and nine months later had a 258-page report explaining why the two-finger test should be discontinued. This report was the basis of a public interest litigation filed by him in the Bombay high court in 2010.

At the time, many of his seniors mocked Dr Khandekar for wasting his time, energy and resources. “They often said that the opinion of a junior doctor from a small town would never be taken seriously. All I knew was that as a medical teacher, I had the moral responsibility to ensure that the next generation of doctors did not continue a regressive and immoral practice,” he said.

In 2011, Maharashtra became the first state in the country to legally ban the virginity test. The government also issued a GR in 2013, laying down guidelines for the medical examination of rape survivors. In the same year, the Supreme Court also banned the practice.

Medical textbooks, however, still advocated the test. Dr Khandekar thus approached the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on the issue. The ministry of health and family welfare then appointed him to draft guidelines that would replace the older ones which were issued in 2014. “I submitted a detailed representation to the government as well as the Medical Council of India (MCI) on this issue. It was only in 2019 that the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences changed their textbooks,” said Dr Khandekar.

The National Medical Commission (NMC), which replaced the MCI in 2020, also made changes in the textbooks. In January 2021, the commission also directed the doctors to explain to the court how the virginity test was unscientific if the court ordered it in matrimonial disputes like annulment, adultery and impotence.

Given this direction of the NMC, Dr Khandekar believes that Monday’s Supreme Court directive to penalise doctors who conduct the two-finger test is redundant. “The real change will come only when no court orders the test. That leg of my fight is yet to be won, but I am determined to see it through completely,” he said.

Dr Kapil Patil who is the police surgeon in the police department now happens to have done his post graduation in fornesic medicine and toxicology from Government Medical College, Yavatmal. He said he has been hearing about Dr Khandekar’s battle against the virginity test as a ‘one-man army’ since his college days. “This was a much-needed fight and I am glad someone took up the cause of sexual assault survivors. It’s great to see that his grit proved strong enough to carry out such a long struggle,” he said.

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