Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Method to examine rape victims is archaic: former Chief Justice of Delhi HC

Method to examine rape victims is archaic: former Chief Justice of Delhi HC

Mumbai Human Rights Watch, an international NGO working for human rights, released a report on problems with the existing methods of forensic examination of rape victims on Monday. Authored by Aruna Kashyap, the report deals with “absolute ignorance of survivor rights by the Judiciary and the State.”

Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Justice AP Shah, released the report. “As the report points out, the finger test method which continues to be used for examining rape victims is an archaic method. We need a system to sensitise judges and lawyers on a large scale,” he said.

Based on 153 High Court judgments, the report cites judgments where the finger test has been cited as evidence of the victims’ compromised moral character.

“This is despite a Supreme Court order in the State of Uttar Pradesh Vs Pappu case where the apex court held that the victims’ sexual history had no bearing on a rape trial,” Justice Shah said. Eminent women’s rights activist and lawyer Flavia Agnes said the outdated forensic science syllabus is the root of problems in India. “Doctors continue to use the archaic finger test when WHO and gynecological organisations around the world have held that it is no proof of a woman’s virginity. When medical science has progressed to such astounding levels, the MCI does nothing to upgrade forensic science curricula. Students continue to read books which were written in the 1920s. The fact that a scientifically baseless test continues to be quoted and made the basis of High Court judgments is alarming,”she added.

Kashyap stressed on the need for a uniform standard to be set for examination of rape survivors. “Currently there is no set protocol which leaves room for ambiguities that compromise the survivors’ rights,” she said.


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Abolish degrading hymen test on rape victim: Activists

The international human rights body, Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday released a report, “Dignity on Trial – India’s Need for Sound Standards for Conducting and Interpreting Forensic Examinations of Rape Survivors”, seeking a ban on the finger test used on rape victims.   The report prepared

by Aruna Kashyap, women’s rights researcher with the HRW, documents the continued use of the practice and reliance of the “results” by many defence counsels and courts. The report was released by retired chief justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah.  

The practice involves the doctor inserting fingers in a victim's vagina to determine the presence or absence of the hymen and the “laxity” of the vagina.  

“This is yet another assault on a rape survivor, placing her at risk of further humiliation,” said Kashyap, adding: “The government should heed the demands of Indian activists to abolish this degrading practice. These tests are unsound scientifically because the state of the hymen is not conclusive about virginity.”  

The test conducted on the victim, without “informed consent”, would constitute assault and is inhuman and degrading, states the report.

Consent is interpreted as the victim being asked if she was okay with a male doctor performing the test, which is not sufficient, said Kashyap. 

“The doctor has to explain each procedure before conducting the test, which is usually not done. The actual test comes as a shock for the victim, who practically relives the trauma of rape,” said Kashyap.  

The Maharashtra and Delhi governments continue to recommend finger tests in their forensic examination templates.



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