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'Crude, degrading' finger-test forced on Mumbai gangrape victim by cops

A 19-year-old telephone operator who was allegedly gangraped at Shakti Mills on 31 July was reportedly subjected to the archaic "two-finger test", despite a Government Resolution (GR) issued against it by the Maharashtra government.

The resolution, which came into force in May of this year, stated that medical officers of the state health department will have to adhere to a new manual that details the manner in which the medical examination should be conducted and deal with victims in a sensitive manner.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to a report in the Indian Express, medical reports attached to the file's chargesheet said that the test was carried out at state-run JJ Hospital.

The report says: "There is very little supportive medical evidence in the case owing to the delay in reporting the incident, the hospital stuck to the old proforma and filled in details on the "age of hymen tear", a factor indicating the victim's sexual history."

In a two-finger test, a doctor at the government hospital inserts two fingers into the rape victim’s vagina to check for the presence or absence of the hymen and also to check the ‘laxity’ of the vagina, ostensibly to check if penile penetration has taken place.

As Firstpost noted in this article: "The test is deemed to establish whether the woman has had sexual intercourse and if she is habituated to it. Incidentally even that can’t be ascertained from this test since the presence or absence of hymen or width of the vagina has no correlation with virginity or sexual activity."

The Maharastra government had noted something similar while changing the procedure.

"The procedure (finger test) is degrading, crude and medically and scientifically irrelevant... Information about past sexual conduct has been considered irrelevant," the GR, issued on May 10, had said.

In May of this year, the Supreme Court had  directed the Central government to provide better medical procedures to rape victims, saying that procedures like the two-finger test violated the right to privacy of rape victims.

International human rights agency, the Human Rights Watch in 2010 interviewed over activists, rape survivors, parents of victims, lawyers, judges, doctors and forensic experts and analysed over 153 high court judgments on rape test findings and pointed out that "the finger test-related information continues to be collected and used."

"Forensic examinations are a harrowing experience for many rape survivors, who are shunted from one hospital or ward to another for various aspects of the examination. Often doctors insist that the survivor must make a police complaint when she approaches them directly, which can intimidate her. Further, inserting fingers into the vaginal or anal orifice of an adult or child survivor of sexual violence during a forensic examination can cause additional trauma, as it not only mimics the abuse but can also be painful. Some doctors in India conduct the finger test with little or no regard for a survivor's pain or trauma," stated the report, which was extracted in a Times of India report.