Degrading "test" for rape, India.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Rape (Laws, regulations and rules)
Medical tests (Laws, regulations and rules)
Pub Date: 11/01/2010
Publication: Name: Reproductive Health Matters Publisher: Elsevier Science Publishers Audience: General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Family and marriage; Health; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Reproductive Health Matters ISSN: 0968-8080
Issue: Date: Nov, 2010 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 36
Topic: Event Code: 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont); 980 Legal issues & crime; 970 Government domestic functions Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation
Product: Product Code: 9101312 Rape NAICS Code: 92212 Police Protection
Geographic: Geographic Scope: India Geographic Name: India Geographic Code: 9INDI India
Accession Number: 247520256
Full Text: A 54-page report documents the continued use of the "finger test" as part of forensic examinations of rape survivors in India and the continued reliance on the "results" by many defense lawyers and courts. The practice is used to determine whether a rape survivor is "habituated" to sexual intercourse and involves a doctor inserting fingers in the vagina to determine the presence or absence of the hymen and the so-called "laxity" of the vagina. These findings perpetuate false and damaging stereotypes of rape survivors as "loose" women. Finger test findings are scientifically baseless, and should be considered to constitute an assault, as they are inhumane and degrading.

The Indian government amended its law on evidence in 2003 to prohibit cross-examination of rape survivors based on their "general immoral character". The Indian Supreme Court has described opinions based on the finger test as "hypothetical and opinionative', and has ruled that they cannot he used against a rape survivor. However, the Indian government has yet to take steps to ensure that all states eliminate the practice. There are no guidelines to standardise forensic examinations and to train and sensitise doctors, police, prosecutors, and judges to survivors' rights. The Indian government is currently reviewing laws regarding sexual violence, however, presenting an opportunity for change.

The report is based on 44 interviews in Mumhai and Delhi with activists, rape survivors and their parents, prosecutors, other lawyers, judges, doctors, and forensic experts. Research also included a review of forensic examination templates used in those cities, and an analysis of 153 High Court judgments on rape that referred to finger test findings from 18 states. The finger test-related information continues to be collected and used, particularly in the Maharashtra and Delhi governments where it is recommended in the forensic examination templates.

The WHO's Guidelines for Medico-Legal Care for Victims of Sexual Violence recommends that health care and forensic services be provided at the same time, and by the same person, to reduce duplication and further trauma. Forensic examinations should be minimally invasive and even a purely clinical procedure such as a bimanual examination (which also involves the insertion of two fingers into the vagina) is rarely medically necessary after sexual assault. (1)

(1.) Dignity on trial: India's need for sound standards for conducting and interpreting forensic examinations of rape survivors. Human Rights Watch, 2010. At: .
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