Delhi authorities clarify ban on degrading rape test after outcry

By Nita Bhalla NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Authorities in the Indian capital said on Monday they would ban doctors from conducting an archaic and degrading test during the forensic examinations of rape victims, after campaigners criticized a memo which suggested it would be allowed. The controversial "two-finger test" - which involves a doctor inserting fingers into a rape victim's vagina to determine if she is sexually active - is seen as outdated medical jurisprudence in many countries, including India. But a May 31 circular sent to Delhi hospitals had said the test could be conducted on a rape victim provided she gave her consent. It said a complete ban on the test may prove detrimental to the victim's health and result in injustices. Delhi's Health Minister Satyendar Jain said the circular had been "misinterpreted" and the government wanted to clarify that victims of sexual violence would not undergo the test. "It is advised that medical professionals should not perform the finger test, unless it is medically indicated that it is for only treatment purposes," Jain told a news conference. A panel set up to look at ways to tackle violence against women, following the infamous gang rape and murder of a young woman on a Delhi bus, called for the banning of the two-finger test in January 2013. Four months later, the country's top court said the test violated a woman's right to privacy, and ordered the government to provide better medical procedures to confirm sexual assault. The test was then banned by the Department of Health Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research which issued in a new set of guidelines in 2014. Yet in parts of India, the test continues. It is not only traumatizing for victims, say activists, but the results have been used by defense lawyers to reinforce stereotypes of rape victims being promiscuous which can adversely impact their case. The test includes providing details about the hymen, including whether it is intact or torn, the size of the vagina, and the number of fingers that can be admitted to determine if the victim is "habituated to sex". According to government figures, the number of rapes in the country rose by 35.2 percent to 33,707 in 2013 from the previous year - with Delhi reporting 1,441 rapes in 2013, making it the Indian city with the highest number of rapes. (Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit