Why ‘unscientific’ review is regressive and sexist
“The two-finger test has no scientific basis and is an invasive method of examining rape victims…Instead, it re-victimizes and re-traumatizes women. The two-finger test should not be performed,” Indian Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said as the Supreme Court Bench, also comprising Justice Hima Kohli, prohibits the practice.
The Supreme Court bench added that “the test is based on an erroneous assumption that a sexually active woman cannot be raped. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The High Court also said anyone performing such a test will be considered guilty of misconduct. In addition, he also ordered the removal of the two-finger test from medical school study materials and medical books.
In 2013, the Supreme Court had called the method unconstitutional, but the practice has continued with little deterrence.
Here’s why the two-finger test is not only illegal but also unethical and a violation of human rights.
What is the two-finger test?
Known as PV (Per Vaginal), the two-finger test refers to an intrusive physical examination of a woman’s vagina to check whether the hymen is intact or not.
It examines the laxity of the vaginal muscles to determine if the woman has had or has undergone sexual intercourse – proof of virginity. If the fingers slip easily, the woman is presumed to be sexually active and if the fingers do not penetrate or have difficulty in penetrating, then it is presumed that she has her hymen intact, which is proof that she is a virgin.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the two-finger test cannot prove whether or not a woman has had vaginal intercourse. In fact, the United Nations and all its related agencies have called for the practice to be banned, calling it medically unnecessary, often painful, humiliating and traumatic.
Why is the test problematic?
The two-finger test is regressive and sexist because it is based on the assumption that a sexually active woman is less likely to have been sexually assaulted.
Speaking from a medical perspective, Dr Jayashree, a professor of community medicine at Government Medical College, Kannur was quoted as telling the News Minute: “The test is not scientific because the hymen can rupture for several reasons other than sexual intercourse, including playing sports, riding a bicycle, using tampons, or during medical examinations.
The WHO calls the test unethical because it “could cause additional pain and mimic the original act of sexual violence, leading to re-experience, re-traumatization and re-victimization”.
Say NO to virginity tests! 🚫
“Virginity tests”, aka “two-finger tests”, have no scientific or clinical basis. This is an inspection of female genitalia to determine if a 👩 or 👧 has had vaginal intercourse.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) October 17, 2018
Moreover, in many cases, it is practiced without the woman’s consent, which constitutes a violation of women’s rights.
Forensic expert and lawyer, Dr Indrajit Khandekar of Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sevagram, Wardha, Maharashtra, who was contributed to the banning of the two-finger test in Maharashtra in 2011 even before the Supreme Court order, criticized the test as unscientific and, in fact, is shameful in nature. “In sexual assault cases, it doesn’t matter if a person has ever been involved in sexual acts. Secondly, medically there is no way of knowing if a person is used to sex either,” he has also said in the past.
In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) published a clinical manual titled Healthcare for Women Subject to Intimate Partner Violence or Sexual Violence”, which specifically states : “There is no place for virginity (or ‘two-finger test’); it has no scientific validity.
What has the SC said about this in the past?
This is not the first time the Supreme Court has spoken out against the two-finger test, calling it patriarchal and sexist.
In 2013, the Supreme Court, hearing Lillu @ Rajesh and Another v State of Haryana (2013), ruled that the two-finger test on a rape victim violated her right to privacy and called on the government to provide better medical procedures. to confirm the sexual assault. A bench of Judge BS Chauhan and Judge IMF Kalifulla said that even if the two-finger test report is affirmative, it cannot give rise to the presumption of consent on the part of a rape victim.
“There is no doubt that the two-finger test and its interpretation violates the rights of rape victims to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity. Thus, this test, even if the report is affirmative , cannot ipso facto, make presume the consent “, had specified the formation.
He further added, “Medical procedures must not be performed in a manner that constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and health must be a primary consideration in the treatment of gender-based violence.”
Lately, the test made headlines when a female Indian Air Force (IAF) officer – who accused her colleague of rape last year – had alleged that she had been subjected to the illegal two-finger test to confirm the sexual assault in September 2021.
The 28-year-old female officer had alleged that she had been raped by her colleague at the Indian Air Force College in Redfields, Coimbatore. Following the trauma, she filed an FIR and doctors performed a two-finger test. “It was only later that I found out that the two-finger test was not supposed to be done for a rape exam. This action made me nauseous enough to relive the trauma of being raped” , she said in her FIR, according to a report by the Hindustan Times.
Where else was the two-finger test recently banned?
Besides India, countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Indonesia have banned the two-finger test.
In 2021, Pakistan’s High Court in Lahore also banned the practice, saying the tests were “humiliating” and “had no forensic value”.
In August last year, the Indonesian military also banned the regressive test for women wishing to join the troops. Before the ban, those who were not considered virgins were not eligible for recruitment.
Afghanistan banned the practice in 2018, but the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission said in September that women were still being forced to take the tests.
With contributions from agencies