The Appalling Indian “Finger-Rape-Test” [Shocking Facts]

Posted on October 2, 2010 in Society

By Shraddha Sankhe:

In India, over 18 States use the finger test as the means to test whether a girl has been raped or not. It is on this test that the doctors testify their reports and the court of Law passes judgement. This test has come under fire for being outdated and assaulting a woman’s character much after she has been raped. It casts a doubt on moral grounds on the woman and has been responsible for wrong/biased judgements by defense counsels.

I was appalled when I read the following excerpt in a research reported in Human Rights Watch:

“In cases of very young girls – girls below [age] 12 or 13 – they [police officers and hospital staff] believe it is a case of sexual abuse. But if they are older, then they believe that the girl is trying to falsely frame someone. Their belief changes the way they address the survivors. They are very rude and disrespectful. They will say things like, “Why are you crying?” “You have only been raped.” “You are not dead.” “Go sit over there.” And order them around.”, said Dr. Rajat Mitra, Director, Swanchetan, NGO that provides counseling services to rape survivors.

It is dignity on trial when the archaic finger test is conducted on rape victims in forensic labs by doctors least thoughtful of the trauma already borne by the victim. Though the Supreme Court has ruled that the results of a ‘finger test’ cannot be used against a woman, and that a rape survivor’s ‘habituation to sexual intercourse’ is immaterial, this ‘unscientific, inhuman and degrading’ test is still widely used in India, said the report.

What is the finger test?

The finger test involves a doctor inserting fingers in a rape victim’s vagina to determine the presence or absence of the hymen and the so-called “laxity” of the vagina.  Appalling it is to discover that most doctors report and co-relate the ‘pain felt by victim’ during the finger test to judge whether the victim is a ‘habituated to sex’ (lesser the pain-looser the morals) thus pointing a finger on her character.

Why should it be banned?

“Finger test findings are scientifically baseless because an “old tear” of the hymen or variation of the “size” of the hymenal orifice can be due to reasons unrelated to sex. Carried out without informed consent, the test would constitute an assault, and is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment”, the research said.

Also, it is a well known fact that the hymen loss can occur during swimming, playing basket ball, running, cycling and other activities requiring physical pressure.

This test is yet another assault on a rape survivor, placing her at risk of further humiliation,” said Aruna Kashyap, a women’s rights researcher. Moreover, it has been found that some doctors in India conduct the finger test with little or no regard for a survivor’s pain or trauma.

What makes it really pertinent is the fact that there are still more than 18 states in India which do not have modern means of forensic analysis and rape tests. Worse, they refuse to budge.

The Jharkhand High Court of 2006 gave a ruling saying, “Though the girl was aged about 20 to 23 years and was unmarried but she was found to be “habituated to intercourse.” This makes her to be of doubtful character.”

Are we sensitive?

That’s a question which is slap across the face of the forensic experts. A heinous crime followed by inhuman tests is last thing we can see happening in Indian society today.  We cannot call ourselves modern until medical practices coupled with humane laws are brought in place. When Mathura, a 16 year old Adivasi girl raped by two policemen in eastern Maharashtra was called immoral by the High Court some 35 years ago, no action was taken. The victim dies a million deaths when the law of the land raises a finger on her character. Let us hope the forensic test are least interfering with the victim’s character and may a more sensitive program be launched all over India to counsel the victims and their families alike. We need an overhauling of the legal system of the country — where sexual abuse and rape happen 57 times each day to different unassuming innocent lives.

It is time we’re aware and conscious of our rights.

Image courtesy:

Youth Ki Awaaz

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Debarati Ghosh

Youth Ki Awaz is grossing me out now. Misguided activism causes more harm. Read this before you go on.
“This convinced me that not everyone who was jumping on the bandwagon to hyperventilate knew what they were opposing, as is usually the case in social media. Finally, when I asked her whether the advisory had actually used the words “two-finger test”, she sheepishly answered in the negative and said that the term used was “P.V. tests” which expands to “Per Vagina tests”. Then why was she using “two-finger test”? Just for its sensational value?
Given the progress in medical science, forensic and DNA investigation, why do doctors feel the necessity to perform this test today? The role of medical professionals in a rape case is two-fold — collection of evidence and assessing the injuries, and providing treatment to the victim. In this process, an internal examination may reveal crucial evidence. To give an example, there was a case where eight men had raped a 40-year-old ragpicker. Twigs had been inserted into her vagina which were detected during an internal examination. These twigs were then matched with shrubs at the scene of the crime to produce clinching evidence against the accused.
In cases of prolonged abuse, particularly abuse by fathers, the evidence of an elastic vagina helps in proving that the child has been subjected to prolonged sexual abuse, even though there aren’t any fresh injuries to prove rape. Similarly, in “promise of marriage” cases, the internal examination and condition of the vagina helps in proving the victim’s version that she was in a long-term sexual relationship with the accused.
We need to move with the times, incorporating the reforms that have taken place within our laws into our conceptual framework. It is time to abandon the sensational and titillating term “two-finger test” which has a negative connotation and instead use the more scientific, accurate and non-judgmental term, P.V. test. It is time to delink moral assumptions from medical examinations and use medical procedures to assess the extent of injuries and to provide treatment. The tests should be conducted, not in a routine manner, but after due application of mind, in the manner that other medical tests are conducted on the victim and the accused, which have important evidentiary value during the trial. Rather than banning the test, it would be more prudent to ban the term “two-finger test” from our medical and legal vocabulary.”

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