A Gender-Sensitive Healthcare Response to Survivors of Rape and Sexual Assault
Petition by Satyamev Jayate
To: Union and State Health Ministers
Background: Rape and sexual assault have serious health consequences on a survivor. Besides the psychological trauma of the assault, a survivor may have suffered physical injuries, contracted sexually transmitted infections or even be at the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.
It is essential that she receives sensitive and humane treatment when she goes to any public or private hospital. However, the medical examination in India has been found to be invasive, insensitive and re-traumatizing. Its focus is invariably on the collection of medico-legal evidence, often ineffectively, and not on helping the survivor recover physically and emotionally.
Many examining doctors still perform the archaic 'two-finger test', which involves the insertion of two fingers into the vaginal opening to determine the presence or absence of the hymen and by extension, the survivor's virginity or 'habituation to sex'. This is, without doubt, an intrusive procedure that has been proved to be unscientific and irrelevant in determining whether rape or sexual assault has occurred. Further, doctors often interpret the presence of physical injuries as an indication of assault; however, in most cases, survivors do not have visible physical injuries.
Given this situation, civil society organizations have been lobbying for a gender-sensitive and comprehensive healthcare response to survivors of rape and sexual assault across India. In view of this, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has appointed a committee to frame a set of guidelines. Though the committee finalized these guidelines in December 2013, they have yet to be implemented.
Petition: We, the undersigned, urge and request that a gender-sensitive protocol for the medical examination of rape survivors is uniformly implemented across India. Survivors must receive physical treatment that is prompt, efficient and scientific, and psychological help that is non-judgemental and helps the survivor overcome the trauma of the assault. This signature petition will be sent to the Union and State Health Ministers.
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