Health & Diet

After Rape, Survivors In India Face Another Ordeal: The Two-Finger Test

| November 10 , 2017 , 10:40 IST

Rape and sexual assault is a traumatic incident for any woman, and relating the incident to unknown people is an uncomfortable yet necessary part of the journey to receive justice. However, for rape survivors in India, many still undergo a humiliating 'two-finger' test by medical professionals who give judgement of character of the helpless woman within minutes, despite official guidelines having ruled out the conduct of such a test.

As a part of the 'two-finger' test, medical professionals insert two fingers in the vagina of the victim to examine the presence or absence of a hymen as well as the 'laxity' of the vagina to determine whether the woman is a virgin or is 'habitual to sexual intercourse'. 

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Apart from upsetting the victims and often causing pain to them, the arbitrary test does not take in to account other factors which may influence the 'laxity' of the woman, for example, if the woman had been raped repeatedly, or where she might be in her menstrual cycle.

In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines for the medico-legal care that is to be provided to survivors of sexual violence. The guidelines eliminate the 'two-finger' test entirely and encourage healing mental and physical care while recovering any evidence required. As per the new guidelines, internal vaginal examinations are restricted to only those cases where it is 'medically indicated'.

However, in the span of 3 years, only 9 states have adopted the guidelines, and the traumatic practice of 'two-finger' test continues to take place and doctors continue to pronounce judgements on the morals and characters of women. 

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Even before the guidelines were issued in 2014, the Supreme Court maintained that the 'two-finger' test could not be used against rape survivors and that whether a woman was 'habituated to sexual intercourse' was irrelevant to allegations of rape.

Contrary to the legal guidelines issued, the Human Rights Watch discovered that doctors continue to conduct the invasive 'two-finger' test, often without explaining the process or purpose of the test to the patient and without consideration of whether the patient is under 18 or unmarried.

In several cases in the past, the police and legal authorities have dismissed cases of rape allegations based on the results of the 'two-finger' test when doctors proclaimed that since the test was carried out easily and 'without pain' it indicated that the woman was 'habitual of sexual intercourse'.