No end to their nightmares

Archaic laws and norms requiring a rape victim to appear before multiple courts and touch the accused during identification parade only add to her trauma, says SUKANYA SHANTHA

On December 26, 2013, a 12-year-old was found lying in a pool of blood by a neighbour on the staircase of her building at Kalamboli. The child was rushed to a private hospital and then to Panvel's rural health centre. The police acted immediately and the 23-year-old alleged rapist was arrested the same night.

The victim, who survived, had suffered hymen tear and had bled profusely. But the final medical report identified the crime as "attempted rape". The reason: the doctor on duty was not aware of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act and a Government Resolution issued with an elaborate medical pro forma on measures to take while handling victims of sexual assault at hospitals across the state. "Attempted rape dilutes the gravity of crime. In this case, the doctor had contradictory results," says Swati Kamble, a national coordinator with NGO Action Aid, who has been closely following the case.

While the December 16, 2012, gangrape of a paramedical student in Delhi sparked nationwide outrage and a positive change was brought into the existing legislation, the execution of these laws in letter and spirit still leaves a lot to be desired. After amendments to the law and despite several training sessions at the state-level, the 'system' still finds itself ill-equipped to handle such cases.

For instance, following the gangrape of a 23-year-old photojournalist at Shakti Mills in August last year, when a 19-year old telephone operator mustered courage to report about her gangrape inside the same compound, one would expect utmost sensitivity while handling her case. However, the state-run JJ Hospital ended up conducting the degrading and unscientific two-finger test on her. Ironically, it was the head of JJ Hospital's forensic department who had chaired the committee which drafted the medical pro forma that had resolved to do away with the crude test.

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