The two-finger test: A gross injustice
Last week, in Coimbatore, a woman officer of the Indian Air Force (IAF) accused her colleague of rape, and alleged that she was subject to a two-finger test. On Sunday, the Tamil Nadu Police arrested the accused, 29-year-old flight-lieutenant Amitesh Harmukh. IAF moved a court in Coimbatore to allow a court martial against the accused because he is a serving officer, and succeeded. The case will now be tried by IAF, which has already been criticised for its conduct in the case and treatment of the woman officer.
This case is representative of the gross injustice meted out to victims of sexual assault for several reasons. One, in 2013, the Supreme Court held that the two-finger test violates a subject’s right to privacy and deemed it illegal. Two, the test involves a doctor inserting two fingers in the vagina to detect if the hymen is present, to test the vagina’s size and laxity, and the sexual history of the victim — all of which are completely irrelevant in a case of sexual assault. Three, it is unscientific and prejudicial towards the victim, who is forced to relive the trauma of rape. Four, it completely ignores the fundamental problem that defines sexual assault — the lack of consent.
Cases like this, especially in the armed forces, tend to be dealt with poorly. That the officer is now going to be court martialled is troubling, as the proceedings will be behind closed doors, with little to no transparency. The National Defence Academy has just made history by allowing the entry of women and giving permanent commission to them. IAF has been ahead of the other services in terms of representation. But it is time to re-evaluate what gender equality, at its core, even means. Safety (from sexual assault and intimidation of any kind) and equity (where women are treated on par with men) must lie at the very centre of this vision.