Indian rape victims undergo “finger test”

Trigger warning

As Broadsheet contends, it is as awful as it sounds:

A Human Rights Watch report explains that the archaic test “involves a doctor inserting fingers in a rape victim’s vagina to determine the presence or absence of the hymen and the so-called ‘laxity’ of the vagina.” Hospitals have medical examination forms with “columns that are either marked ‘per vaginum digital examination,’ or ‘fingers admitted,’ or state their finding against a column that asks whether the vagina is ‘narrow/ roomy,'” according to the report. It’s all done in an attempt to “assess whether unmarried girls and women are ‘habituated to sexual intercourse,'” and then, in a familiar scenario worldwide, the results are used to question the victim’s character in court.

Not only is is this test further violating to women who have just experience sexual assault, but often painful. And according to the doctors who conduct this, a survivor’s degree of pain is telling of how “habituated to sex” she is:

Many High Court judgments reveal that doctors have testified in court that having one or two fingers inserted into the vagina is “painful” or “very painful” for the survivor.  And when the survivor did not experience any pain –  if two fingers could be inserted “painlessly” or “easily” – then she was described as being “habituated to sex.”

This is not only ridiculously harmful in perpetuating stereotypes about rape survivors, but also perpetuates myths about virginity and how having a hymen is an indicator of virginity, when it’s obviously not. Additionally, HRW points out that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for  collecting forensic evidence states that the survivor’s health and welfare is the “the overriding priority” and that examinations should be minimally invasive as possible. That’s obviously not the case here.

In short, no one should be subjected to a needless and invasive procedure, and every survivor deserves to be treated with dignity and respect after being raped. It’s that simple. Check out the full report here.

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