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 This test has come under fire for being outdated and assaulting a woman’s character much after she has been raped.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 forÂ wrong/biased judgements by defense counsels.
“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 isÂ 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.Â 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.Â 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: http://www.hrw.org/en/taxonomy/term/141/all