Health Care

India's rape survivors degraded by 'finger test' despite reforms, report says

India's rape survivors degraded by 'finger test' despite reforms, report says”

A study by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found that Indian authorities continue to routinely subject rape survivors to "two-finger test", which involves a doctor inserting fingers inside the victim's vagina to ascertain her sexual activity.

The US-based advocacy group's research found huge gaps in the implementation of reforms adopted since the fatal gang rape of a student in a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012 that sparked national outrage and demands for stronger laws and policies.

Home ministry officials said they could only comment once they had seen the report.

In their report, they revealed that a Rajasthan hospital still carried out this test.

Apart from upsetting the victims and often causing pain to them, the arbitrary test does not take in to account other factors which may influence the "laxity" of the woman, for example, if the woman had been raped repeatedly, or where she might be in her menstrual cycle.

While the government has established fast-track courts focused on crimes against women and children, and non-governmental organisations in cities such as New Delhi try to make legal aid more accessible, most women from poor or marginalised communities struggle to find legal assistance, especially in rural areas.

Almost 35,000 rape cases were reported to the police and 7,000 convictions were made in 2015, both increasing by about 40 percent in three years, according to government data.

All together, these obstacles put the victims of sexual assault through yet another harrowing experience, that of trying to seek the justice they deserve in a system that seems expressly created to deny it.

It was banned and the Indian Council of Medical Research issued new guidelines in 2014. In 2015, police received 35,000 reports of rape and 7,000 of these led to a conviction.

However, when they reviewed support services, the HRW found slow progress. And as for providing the necessary counselling and therapeutic care, the healthcare system often fails completely.

"Women and girls said that they received nearly no attention to their health needs, including counseling, even when it was clear they had a great need for it", the report said.

With these findings, the organisation has called for the Indian government to take on their recommendations. These include proper training provided to police and medical staff, including doctors, to handle cases appropriately and sensitively. This would include protection for victims and their families, should they face any trouble for reporting such incidents.

Sexual violence remains a taboo in the world's largest democracy, and women and girls fear stigma or retribution if they report attacks. Encouraging them to come forward to speak out on the abuse they suffered.

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