comments_image Comments

Rape Victims Forced to Undergo "Finger Test" to Gauge Their Sexual History

Here's how some Indian doctors, lawyers and judges are going the extra mile to traumatize rape victims, according to a Human Rights Watch report:
... a doctor insert[s] fingers in a rape victim's 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. Defense attorneys use the findings to challenge the credibility, character, and the lack of consent of the survivors.
Though the Indian Supreme Court ruled that "evidence" from the finger test can't be used against the victim, many doctors still perform the procedure: "The Indian government has yet to take steps to ensure that all states eliminate it.  There are no nationwide guidelines or programs to standardize forensic examinations and to train and sensitize doctors, police, prosecutors, and judges to survivors' rights." That leads to judgments like this one, by the Jharkhand High Court in 2006: "Though the girl was aged about 20 to 23 years and was unmarried but she was found to be "habituated to intercourse." This makes her to be of doubtful character." And this one, "She was complaining pain and the vagina was admitting 1½ finger [sic] .... From the medical report it is clear that the prosecutrix was not a girl of lax moral and she was not "habituated to sexual intercourse" and most probably, that was her first experience as the doctor has observed reddishness on her vagina and blood secretion and pain on touching the vagina." One rape survivor described her experience this way: "I was so scared and nervous and praying all the time: ‘God, let this be over and let me get out of here fast." The report points out that doctors conduct the exam with little concern for the emotional or physical well-being of their patients. "Inserting fingers into the vaginal or anal orifice of an adult or child survivor of sexual violence during a forensic examination can cause additional trauma, as it not only mimics the abuse but can also be painful." In a sick twist, victims who don't experience pain during the test may be deemed "habituated to sex." The report details the reasons the practice is mind-blowingly stupid in addition to being inhumane: namely, the state of someone's vagina does not reveal much about their sexual experience, since "an "old tear" of the hymen or variation of the "size" of the hymenal orifice can be due to reasons unrelated to sex." The time-honored tradition of smearing rape victims by exploiting their sexual history is not exactly scientifically sound either, as Tracy-Clark Flory points out on Salon. Aruna Kashyap, researcher for Human Rights Watch:
Survivors of sexual violence have the right to legal recourse without being further traumatized in the process. The health and criminal justice systems should work together to ensure that they do not perpetuate damaging stereotypes of survivors.