Vetoes two-finger virginity test

 Victims of sexual assault must not be subjected to the demeaning two-finger test to check the laxity of vaginal muscle and whether the hymen is intact, Justice Verma panel has underscored.

The panel, which reviewed all available options of redressal for victims of sexual offences, examined the medico-legal options and suggested hymen should be treated like any other part of the genitals.

An intact hymen does not rule out sexual assault, nor does a torn hymen prove previous sexual intercourse. It is largely irrelevant because the hymen can be torn due to several reasons.

Emphasising that vaginal introitus (vaginal orifice) had no bearing on a case of sexual assault, the panel said the infamous two-finger test must not be conducted to ascertain the laxity of vaginal muscles, nor should it be used as the basis for making observations like “habituated to sexual intercourse”, the panel said. It is forbidden by law, it added.

Elaborating on the role of doctors, the panel said doctors from private and government hospitals have to show “paramount, absolute and total obligation” to protect a victim's life without any interference from the law.

The panel, however, preferred taking victims to a sexual assault crisis centre rather than a hospital, which can be an emergency option, depending on the physical condition of the victim.

The designated centre would be a separate space within a hospital with at least three rooms – a waiting room, a medical examination room and a counselling centre, preferably with a toilet and a shower. The surroundings should also be child-friendly, non-threatening, sanitised and well-lit.

The centre must have a female gynaecologist, a qualified counsellor and a sexual assault investigation kit along with proper storage and refrigeration facility for the collection of forensic evidence.

Subject ­to the victim's health, the counsellor should interact with her before the doctor and police take over. The counsellor's job will be to inform the victim about legal rights, provide her with contacts of lawyers who may be available while police record her statement.

The panel recommended medical examination by a board of three doctors, which should be recorded as an audio recording and may be made available to a court.

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