The Supreme Court also yesterday asked the Centre to respond to a plea seeking to examine the "two-finger test" conducted on rape complainants on the ground that it was "ex-facie" against the dignity of the victims.
A bench comprising justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra issued notices to the Centre, Delhi Government and the National Commission for Women on the petition seeking framing of elaborate guidelines for the manner in which immediate medico legal assistance is to be provided to rape victims.
The test is still acceptable courtroom evidence. While conducting medical examinations, a doctor inserts two fingers into a women's vagina to determine its laxity and whether the hymen is broken, signaling previous sexual activity.
It has been documented that many doctors record unscientific and degrading findings, which involve noting the "laxity" of the vagina or hymen, apparently to determine whether the victims are "virgins" or "habituated to sexual intercourse". Often doctors, police and judges look for evidence of "struggle" or "injuries", especially hymenal injuries, in the medical examination report, discrediting those who do not report such injuries.
Campaign against the test
About 90 civil society organisations and individuals had written in May 2012 to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging reforms in responses to sexual assault and greater accountability of police. The plea was to constitute a task force to put in place a coordinated response to gender-based violence, especially sexual assault. It included issuing of instructions to the state governments to monitor police handling of sexual assault reports and investigations and hold accountable officers who mishandle their duties.
This was necessary as India does not have a uniform protocol for medical treatment and examination of sexual assault victims, making responses ad hoc and unpredictable.