Govt makes 'finger test' optional for rape victims

In an attempt to end humiliation of rape victims, the Union Health Ministry has decided to make the "finger test" or the per vaginal (PV) test optional.

Till now, rape victims were being subjected to forensic examinations, including the degrading "finger test". The ministry has now made it clear that the PV test would be conducted only "if medically indicated" and with the "consent of the victim".

In a letter to all central government hospitals, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has asked them to follow the new format without any delay.

"The word finger testing sounds rude and is not used in the format now. The PV examination will be done only if the doctor feels that it is necessary and that too with the consent of the victim," said a senior official in the ministry.

Health Ministry officials along with various experts, including gynaecologists, representatives from the Law and Justice department and forensic experts finalised the format last month.

While the format has been simplified, certain descriptions like behavioural symptoms (shame, grief and depression), physical symptoms (pain and discomfort while walking), family history (father being alcoholic, family discord), parental/caretaker history (negligible parental support) have all been removed.

"The idea was to make it simple. The old format was made years back, the changes were necessary to be done," said one of the technical experts.

According to the expert, changes have also been made in the way description of clothes was made. In the earlier format, the description of clothes worn by victims included whether they were "attractive" or "rags" or were there "fresh tears, stains of blood/semen/mud, etc" on them.

The new format only includes description like "fresh torn, stains of blood or semen/mud, etc". "We felt that there was no need to write if the woman was wearing attractive clothes. Even details on nutrition like poor, healthy, satisfactory, subcutaneous fat, arm grip have all been removed," the expert added.

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