Post-Rape Rape in India

What Women Really Think
Sept. 21 2010 4:11 PM

Post-Rape Rape in India

For those women who survive rape in India, the ordeal of having someone force themselves on you does not end with the assault. It happens all over again in the doctor's surgery during the "forensic examination." This month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a harrowing 54 page report , which details the country's frighteningly medieval approach to rape victims-including the use of "finger tests" to ascertain whether the woman is "habituated to sex."

During these tests, doctors penetrate the victim's vagina with their fingers to examine its "laxity" and draw crude, hypothetical conclusions from the condition of the victim's hymen. If two fingers could be inserted "painlessly" or "easily" then the woman is described as "habituated to sex," a conclusion that makes getting justice in local courts next to impossible. The report includes countless extracts of court judgments, which have been made on the basis of these shaky tests: "Though the girl was aged about 20 to 23 years and was unmarried" one says, "she was found to be 'habituated to intercourse.' This makes her to be of doubtful character."Needless to say, HRW labels the tests a form of "assault" and "inhuman and degrading treatment."

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The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that finger tests cannot be used against rape survivors, but the government has done precious little to eliminate this barbaric practice. As recently as June of this year, the Delhi and Maharashtra state government (of which Mumbai is the capital), have introduced finger tests in their standard forensic examination template.

Amana Fontanella-Khan is a Brussels-based writer. She is the author of the forthcoming book Pink Sari Revolution (W.W Norton, August). Follow her on Twitter @AmanaFK.