IAF Officer Subjected To Two-Finger Test In Violation Of Law; What Is SC Stance?

New Delhi: The ‘two-finger test’ that compromises the dignity of a rape victim was carried out on a woman officer of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in violation of the prevailing government guidelines and the Indian Council of Medical Research in 2014 terming the two-finger test unscientific.

The officer has accused her colleague of rape and alleged she was subjected to an illegal two-finger test to confirm the sexual assault, prompting the National Commission for Women (NCW) to say it violated a Supreme Court ruling as well as her right to privacy and dignity.

NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma has also written to the IAF air chief marshal to take necessary steps and impart the necessary knowledge to the force’s doctors about the prevailing government guidelines on the two-finger test unscientific.

“The National Commission for Women is utterly disappointed and strongly condemns the action of Indian Air Force doctors conducting the banned two-finger test on the victim, thereby violating the Supreme Court’s decision and also violating the right to privacy and dignity of the victim,” the commission said reacting to a media report.

The 28-year-old woman officer, who was allegedly raped on the Air Force Administrative College campus in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district, has said that she was made to relive the trauma. “Only later did I find out that the two-finger test is not supposed to be done for a rape exam. This action made me nauseous enough to relive the trauma of being raped,” according to the first information report (FIR) she filed with the Tamil Nadu Police on September 20.

What is the two-finger test?

The controversial “per vaginal” or the two-finger test involves a doctor inserting two fingers in the vagina of a rape survivor to detect if the hymen is present or not, and the vagina’s size and laxity. Doctors also check how habituated the woman who has been raped is to sexual intercourse and her sexual history.

Supreme Court stance

In 2013, the Supreme Court held that the two-finger test on a rape victim violates her right to privacy, and asked the government to provide better medical procedures to confirm sexual assault. A bench of Justice BS Chauhan and Justice FMI Kalifulla said even if the report of the two-finger test is affirmative, it cannot give rise to the presumption of consent on part of a rape victim.

“Undoubtedly, the two-finger test and its interpretation violate the right of rape survivors to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity. Thus, this test, even if the report is affirmative, cannot ipso facto, be given rise to the presumption of consent,” the bench said.

The judges said rape survivors are entitled to legal recourse that does not violate their physical or mental integrity and dignity as they referred to various international covenants. “Medical procedures should not be carried out in a manner that constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and health should be of paramount consideration while dealing with gender-based violence,” it said.

“The state is under an obligation to make such services available to survivors of sexual violence. Proper measures should be taken to ensure their safety and there should be no arbitrary or unlawful interference with her privacy,” the bench said.

The top court said that rape survivors are entitled to legal recourse that does not re-traumatise them or violate their physical or mental integrity and dignity. “They are also entitled to medical procedures conducted in a manner that respects their right to consent,” it said.

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