Despite being banned by the Indian government, doctors in India continue to use archaic and intrusive methods to examine rape victims, campaigners have said.
Nearly 50 activists and experts sent a letter to India's health ministry saying the investigators are "preoccupied with genital injuries" and are paying little attention to the victims' testimonies.
"The absence of injuries is frequently equated with the absence of assault and denies their rights and autonomy," the letter noted.
The Indian government and the judicial courts banned the archaic "two-finger test" one of the most intrusive methods in 2013, saying it violates the right to privacy.
In the archaic two-finger test, which dates back to the 18th-century British era, "the examining doctor notes the presence or absence of the hymen and the size and so-called laxity of the vagina of the rape survivor." The finger test is widely used in efforts to assess whether unmarried girls and women are "habituated to sexual intercourse," according to a Human Rights Watch's report published in November last year.
Ironically, in a recent analysis, the finger test was used to dispute the theory that an "intact hymen" meant that the rape never occurred, as doctors concluded that an "intact hymenal orifice could stretch without tearing."
After the fatal December 2012 gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus which garnered international press over India's violence against women issue, a wave of public protests followed resulting in several reforms. One of which was introduced in 2014, where the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare set guidelines for the medico-legal care to standardize examination and treatment for survivors of sexual violence. But currently, only nine states are implementing the guidelines.
“(According to) the traditional form of examination, a majority of survivors would not have been raped,” Padma Deosthali, a signatory who was a principal consultant to the government’s 2014 reforms, told Reuters.
In 2015, nearly 35,000 rape cases were reported to the police and 7,000 convictions were made, a 40 percent increase in three years, according to government numbers.
The examining doctors are not trained enough to evaluate the rape victims.
"At best, doctors will have some half-an-hour or one hour lecture on medical evidence every year. No training. Nothing at all for medical examination in rape cases. Compare this to SAFE—Sexual Assault Forensic Examination—programs in other countries like Canada and US. They have a dedicated cell where women can come and report sexual assault and be treated and examined by trained doctors," Mumbai-based Dr Harish Pathak, a professor of forensic medicine, told Human Rights Watch.