Facing flak from all quarters, Delhi govt withdraws controversial 'two-finger test' circular

New Delhi: In its worst-ever red-face moment since coming to power, the Delhi government on Monday was forced to withdraw a controversial circular on the 'two-finger test' on sexual assault victims.

Coming under intense pressure from various quarters, the AAP-led Delhi government said on Monday that "no such test would be performed on sexual assault victims".

The government has decided to withdraw the controversial circular, ban the test on victims of sexual assault and take necessary action against the official, who had issued the order.

 Facing flak from all quarters, Delhi govt withdraws controversial two-finger test circular

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia. PTI

However, what failed to cut the ice with the aam aadmi was the surprising ignorance of the Delhi chief minister, the Health minister and Health secretary on the test, which according to the Supreme Court is 'inhuman and shouldn't be conducted'.

Is it ignorance, insensitivity or an error on part of the government that led to the controversy?

If the Delhi's Health Minister Satyendra Jain is to be believed, it's a "misinterpretation" of the circular.

"We called an emergency meeting today with doctors and officials, and are issuing an advisory. We're clarifying that this kind of test should not be conducted at all on victims of sexual assault. However, it's advised that the medical professionals should not perform the two-finger test unless it's only for the purpose of medical treatment, if needed, and not in the case of sexual assault," Jain said.

A three-member committee of the Delhi government recently issued guidelines on the 'two-finger test', also known as 'Per vaginal examination', and recommended that physicians should not 'be made to function under the constraint of a complete ban of these essential steps in the internal examination of a sexual assault victim'.

The committee also reportedly said there was a misconception that the test was conducted to judge if a woman was habituated to sexual intercourse and that the test was purely to examine genital organs for forced penetration, document injuries and collect samples.

The circular further mentioned, "to do away with this essential pelvic examination would amount to incomplete assessment of the survivor, which will ultimately result in injustice and low conviction rates." The circular also mentioned that 'informed consent' of the woman should be taken before conducting the test.

However, the recommendation is not a recent one. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government during its previous 49-day stint had recommended it and now a circular was issued to this effect.

"This order was made eight months back. We're only over three-month old government. It has been misinterpreted and now we're clarifying our stand on this. There is no logic in ascertaining the sexual history of a victim," added Jain.

A committee of doctors submitted a 14-page report to the Central Information Commission (CIC) on 29 May that the controversial test can be used to determine a woman's sexual history.

The CIC asked the Delhi government to suo moto make public whether the controversial two-finger test to determine rape has been banned in the national capital since the health department failed to spell out a clear policy on it. This brought the controversy on public forum, with protests from all across the spectrum.

The test has long been criticized for the indignity it inflicts on victims of sexual assaults.

But, in 2013, the Supreme Court had termed the two-finger test as 'inhuman'. The apex court had said that the test 'violates the privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity' of rape victims.

Similarly, in 2012, Justice Verma committee had also said that victims should not be subjected to the two-finger vaginal examination.

The test was banned by the Department of Health Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research in a new set of guidelines issued in 2014.

Delhi Commission for Women, chairperson, Brakha Shukla termed the circular as "ridiculous and insulting". Slamming the AAP government, she said that the AAP in its election manifesto gave top priority to women issues, but after forming the government, it had been dumped. "Despite, the SC and Justice Verma committee being against the two-finger test, the Delhi government issued circular for its implementation. We're writing to Delhi government seeking explanation."

"It's a gross violation of the SC ruling. How can the government issue such an order that insults dignity of women?" questioned social activist Brinda Adige.

AAP government's silence

Though the issue is more than a week old, the Delhi government's silence made people ask: Is the government ignorant about its own circular?

The controversy has attracted severe criticism from both the BJP and the Congress.

Hitting out at the Delhi government, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra tweeted:

"Now, the government says it'll take action against the official, who issued the circular. Can a single official be blamed?" questioned Patra.

The Congress stated it to be "extremely unfortunate and shocking".

Prof Ajit Jha, a senior leader of Swaraj Abhiyan-a splinter group comprising ex-AAP members, said, "It exposes lacunae in the functioning of the Delhi government. It's surprising how a major decision could be taken without the consent of the higher ups."

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Updated Date: Jun 08, 2015 20:22:19 IST