Two-finger test in rape cases: Executive must summon the political will to implement Supreme Court’s directive

Source: The post is based on the article “Two-finger test in rape cases: Executive must summon the political will to implement Supreme Court’s directive” published in the Indian Express on 3rd November 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Relevance: About the ‘two-finger’ test and its elimination.

News: Recently, the Supreme Court has declared that any person conducting the invasive ‘two-finger’ or ‘three-finger’ vaginal test on rape or sexual assault survivors will be found guilty of misconduct.

What is a two-finger test, and What did the Supreme Court say about the two-finger test?
Read here: Anyone conducting ‘two-finger’ test on sexual assault survivors will be held guilty of misconduct: Supreme Court
What are the concerns associated with the two-finger test?

Legal scholars believe the two-finger test allows for “medicalisation of consent” where women’s bodies are given precedence over their voices. So, the two-finger test is an invasion of privacy and a violation of a survivor’s dignity. The test also signifies the patriarchal notions about rape.

The prevalence of the test also highlight the poor state of forensic medicine infrastructure in India. Further, there is a lack of awareness amongst the medical community about the unscientific nature of the two-finger test.

What is the present status of the two-finger test?

Based on the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma Committee Report, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare issued guidelines for medico-legal care for survivors of sexual violence. These guidelines explicitly prohibited the two-finger test and discussed the need for training medical examiners to respond to the needs of the survivors in a sensitive and non-discriminatory manner.

Lillu @ Rajesh v. State of Haryana (2013) case: In this case, the court prohibited the test. But despite that, the two-finger test still remains a reality.

What is the significance of the recent judgment on the two-finger test?

Address the Lack of political will to enforce the guidelines: The Court commented on the sorry state of affairs and issued directions to the government to enforce the protocol including the emphasis on workshops and the medical school curriculum.

Guidance to medical practitioners: The Court took a step further by holding a person conducting the two-finger test on a rape survivor guilty of misconduct.

What needs to be done to completely rule out the two-finger test?

The government has to undertake a comprehensive pan-India review to assess the nature and extent of the problem and rely on an evidence-based approach to addressing the problems of implementation.

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