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Indian Rape Victims Subjected To Vaginal “Finger Test”

Indian Rape Victims Subjected To Vaginal “Finger Test”

A recent Human Rights Watch report details the continuing use of an outdated procedure known as the “finger test” (such a scientific name!) to determine whether rape victims are “habituated” to sexual intercourse.  HRW urged that Indian hospitals drop the procedure, which involves a doctor inserting two fingers into the rape victim’s vagina to “determine the presence or absence of the hymen and the so-called ‘laxity’ of the vagina.”  These findings are then used in court to form the basis of the survivor’s credibility and character.

The practice is humiliating and scientifically dubious; although people just don’t seem to accept it, the presence or absence of a hymen (or, as the Swedes would like us to call it, the “vaginal corona”) is largely unrelated to sexual intercourse.  The hymen, a membrane that erodes over time, has holes or perforations in it, so it’s possible to have sex without breaking the membrane, just as it’s possible for women to be born without a hymen.  This knowledge, however, does not seem to have deterred doctors who still insist on conducting the “finger test.”

The HRW writes, “Many High Court judgments reveal that doctors have testified in court that having one or two fingers inserted into the vagina is ‘painful’ or ‘very painful’ for the survivor.  And when the survivor did not experience any pain -  if two fingers could be inserted ‘painlessly” or ‘easily’ – then she was described as being ‘habituated to sex.’”

In addition to simply being highly uncomfortable under normal circumstances (as anyone who has had a pelvic exam can attest), the insertion of fingers into the vagina after sexual assault can be extremely traumatic for survivors, because the action mimics the abuse that has just occurred.

“I was so scared and nervous and praying all the time: ‘God, let this be over and let me get out of here fast,” one rape survivor is quoted as saying in the HRW report.

The HRW points out that although there are currently no standards for training doctors, police, prosecutors, and judges to be sensitive to survivors’ needs and rights, India is in the midst of reviewing laws regarding sexual violence, leaving an unusual window for the banning of practices like the “finger test.”  And certainly, let’s hope that they do, because the last thing that a rape survivor needs is to undergo a second assault.

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300 comments

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1:27PM PDT on Apr 19, 2011

They should use common sense to know that a finger test doesn't prove anything.

9:17AM PST on Feb 5, 2011

I wonder how, the 2 percent voting no, thinks? What are their thoughts of women's rights? How do they feel about issues concerning the rights of women to own their own body? Do they believe in patriarchial laws? Just wonder...

4:33PM PST on Dec 15, 2010

OMG this is like being raped a second time - what an insult to traumatized women. And so what if she is "habituated for sex" - What is there investigation? RAPE IS RAPE.

7:25PM PST on Nov 8, 2010

I don't trust western doctors either for what they did to me..
They rape me in a manner by inserting these big whatever " forcep in my virgin vagina- at 14 yrs old- for one
Then I was told I had cancer of the uterus for 2nd six years later, I am still here and that is for a start...Naw I don't trust docs. We have to be well informe and follow your medical dossier if you don't want them to kill you. Some are good I also know, I had an heart attack, a stroke, a lymphoma.
I know this practice is useless for detection only presence of sperm is relevent so they should get on with these new process. Then Curiously I was raped, by a friend at 15 and I did not report it-it was a known person a bit older than I. No there was no "fun", no pleasure init either. I am surprise that my life did not take me toward women affection.
I understand for these woman to prove their cause is a men's world totally inneficient. Or "she wanted it" is their best exit for these kind of immoral people kind. In a Western World we have a hard time on these cases, imagine in a country like such...

10:46PM PDT on Oct 31, 2010

Its surely perpetuation and patronisation of the crime through the institutionalisation of the procedure.

6:04PM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

This is another form of rape. I got nauseous reading this. So hard to have hope for women when this crap is still going on somewhere in the world. Men should not be preforming this even is they have a doctorate, they are still men.

11:31AM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

thanx Amelia, good comments. It's hard to believe that such a Holy nation (overall) would allow Intelligent perverts to do such a ridiculous thing legally. Good Indian doctors should know the stupidity of this test, how can any man enjoy putting gloved fingers up their in a hospital setting, crazy. God Bless

10:35AM PDT on Sep 21, 2010

First of all this is supposing that it makes a difference if the woman is "habituated" to sexual intercourse or not. It shouldn't matter how many times a woman has had sex. If she was raped, she was raped. It's time that we get out of our heads that if a woman is sexual that she always wants it regardless.

10:35AM PDT on Sep 21, 2010

First of all this is supposing that it makes a difference if the woman is "habituated" to sexual intercourse or not. It shouldn't matter how many times a woman has had sex. If she was raped, she was raped. It's time that we get out of our heads that if a woman is sexual that she always wants it regardless.

2:56AM PDT on Sep 21, 2010

The doctor (forgive my crudeness) might as well insert his penis!
What a ridiculous barbaric test!
Also, there are so few woman doctors in India that I am sure 99% of victims get tested by male doctors.
What does the Indian govt. think of this ridiculous customs?
Surely something can and should be done about this.
Poor women!
I am sure as most women would be aware of this customs, they won't evn report the rape!
Why is it always women that have to suffer like this!

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