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The medical system must be sensitive to the trauma of rape victims

The so called two finger test that is still widely used to assess whether the victim is a virgin or not is used against rape victims to suggest that she is of loose morals and, therefore, not deserving of being treated as a victim of violence or coercion. This is inhuman and a violation of the basic right to privacy of a woman

editorials Updated: Jan 12, 2018 10:55 IST
Hindustan Times
sexual violence,sexual assault,gender sensitisation
The main aim of any legal system should be that the victim of such crimes is not frightened of coming forward to report them. But here, even though many more women are willing to seek justice today, they are not willing to suffer more humiliation at the hands of the police, doctors and lawyers(AFP/Getty Images)

A rape survivor in India is traumatised in many ways. The first is the violence she suffers at the hands of the perpetrator of the crime; the second is the delay at the behest of the criminal justice system; and the third is the injustice and indignity from the medical system. Intrusive tests on victims are banned, yet doctors continue to conduct these in India.

More than three years ago, the ministry of health and family welfare framed guidelines against the degrading practice of what is called a two-finger test, a method used to assess whether the victim is a virgin. Even before that, the Supreme Court had held that this test cannot be used against a rape victim to suggest that she is of loose morals and, therefore, not deserving of being treated as a victim of violence or coercion. Many doctors place undue emphasis on the injuries the woman has suffered; it is implicit that a lack of them could suggest consent. The law clearly states health professionals provide psychological and social care to the victim even while gathering evidence. The victim should be encouraged to speak of her trauma in a professional and caring environment, not just be subject to an invasive medical procedure. It is often based on this sketchy evidence provided by the two- finger test that the criminal justice system proceeds. If this test finds that the woman has not suffered any visible injury or that she is not a virgin, her reputation can become vulnerable to being attacked.

The main aim of any legal system should be that victims are not frightened of coming forward to report them. But here, even though many more women are willing to seek justice today, they are not willing to suffer more humiliation at the hands of the police, doctors and lawyers. In a letter to the health ministry, experts have said this is a violation of the privacy of the victim. Gender sensitisation is a term which is bandied about quite casually when it comes to women’s rights. A good way of ensuring that such sensitisation really means something is to ensure that women are not subject to practices which violate their human rights.

First Published: Jan 12, 2018 10:55 IST